A Muslim family was killed in Canada just 3 months ago. So why are leaders not talking about Islamophobia?

So many issues are not being talked about but at least some party platforms include commitments with respect to anti-racism and related policies:

Just weeks after four members of a Muslim family were killed in what police have called act of terror, Aalia Bhalloo stood shaking in the middle of a Toronto-area grocery store, stunned at the words of a shopper who called her “disgusting.”

“Making your daughter wear that thing on her head is child abuse,” the woman told Bhalloo, referring to her 11-year-old’s headscarf. 

In her 36 years in Canada where she was born and raised, never before had Bhalloo experienced outright hate.

Her first instinct: to call the police.

“How would I know that those people wouldn’t be waiting for me outside in their car and the moment I stepped outside they run me over?” Bhalloo said. In the wake of the London attack, the fear was hardly far-fetched. 

Yet, as Canada enters the final week of an election only months after politicians of all stripes took to a stage in London in a show of solidarity, racism and anti-Muslim hate in particular have barely registered on the campaign trail. 

That’s raising concerns about just how much substance was behind their words in a year marked by a so-called racial reckoning sparked by the murder of George Floyd, the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves at former residential schools, an uptick in anti-Asian racism amid the pandemic, and the deadliest attack on Muslims in the country since six worshippers were killed at a Quebec City mosque in 2017.

Leaders can’t be allowed to be push hate to ‘backburner’

“We can’t have politicians be allowed to get away with pushing this issue to the backburner,” Fareed Khan, founder of Canadians United Against Hate told CBC News.

“I think it’s up to Canadians — not just racialized Canadians but also the allies who have come out in the tens of thousands this year to support Black Canadians and Indigenous Canadians and Muslim Canadians — to say, ‘No we can be better than this’ and we’re not going to let you get away with being silent on this issue.”

Over the last decade, Canada has seen police-reported hate crimes against Muslims rise from 45 in 2012 to 181 in 2018. 

That number fell to 82 in 2020, though the past 12 months have seen profound examples of violence against Muslims, including the London attack, the fatal stabbing of Mohamed Aslim Zafis outside a Toronto-area mosque by a man with alleged links to neo-Nazi ideology, as well as multiple hate-motivated attacks on Black and racialized women in the Edmonton area.

As recently noted by the National Council of Canadian Muslims, more Muslims have been killed in targeted hate-attacks in Canada than any other G-7 country in the past five years. 

No major party committing to fight Bill 21

That’s something NCCM’s CEO Mustafa Farooq says “is absolutely something that should be addressed by every federal leader … If they’re not willing to address it, I think that tells you a lot about where their priorities lie.”

The Liberals have adopted some of the group’s 61 recent recommendations to counter Islamophobia in their campaign platform, including a $10-million annual investment for a national support fund for survivors of hate-motivated crimes. They have also committed to a national action plan for combating hate and creating new legislation to combat the spread of online hate.

The Conservatives promise to double the funding for the federal security infrastructure program and make it easier for religious institutions to apply to protect themselves against hate-motivated crime, though Farooq points out nowhere in their platform are the words Islamophobia or racism mentioned. 

Meanwhile, he says, the NDP is the only party to explicitly endorse an office for a special envoy on Islamophobia and has also promised online measure to counter hate. 

Still, says Farooq, none of the federal leaders have committed to intervening to fight Quebec’s Bill 21 in court — which bans some civil servants, including teachers, police officers and government lawyers, from wearing religious symbols at work. Instead, the leaders of the Liberals, Conservatives and Bloc Québécois all called the English-language debate question on Quebec’s secularism law offensive and unfair. 

That’s something Toronto imam Hamid Slimi believes needs to change.

“I believe governments should never interfere in people’s personal decisions when it comes to what they want to wear, what they believe, how they want to practise their religion.”

Issues like that have been drowned out amid the din of the campaign, he says.

“It’s like you’re in a market. There’s so much noise, everybody’s selling this and selling that and you can’t focus.”

Silence on hate makes it more ‘acceptable’

But for all the noise, for Bhalloo it’s the silence from leaders about the subject that’s most worrying.

“It does absolutely worry me for myself, but more importantly, my children who are growing up in this society that will have to face Islamophobic types of events or incidents or hate incidents, such as my daughter who had to face it as well,” she said.

“The silence of it just makes it that much more socially acceptable.”

As many took advantage of advance polls over the weekend, the world also marked 20 years since 9/11, when al -Qaeda hijackers attacked New York and Washington, killing nearly 3,000 including 24 Canadians. 

That date isn’t without significance in a year that’s seen such profound examples of anti-Muslim hate, says Khan.

“What we’re not remembering was the Islamophobia that it fuelled, the national security policies that are still in place that affect primarily Muslims. It doesn’t register on people that that singular attack has changed our society and has engendered racism, has fed white supremacy and Islamophobia,” he said. 

‘The face of Canada is changing’

Sabreena Ghaffar-Siddiqui, a professor of sociology and criminology at Sheridan College, agrees. 

“9/11 is connected to Islamophobia because that essentially became the birth of Islamophobia as we know it today. The ‘war on terror’ is the foundation on which today’s Islamophobia rests.”

Indeed, the Canadian Islamic Congress reported more than 170 anti-Muslim hate crimes in 2002, up from just 11 in 2000. 

And to anyone who believes problems of Islamophobia or racism in general don’t affect the public broadly enough to come up in an election campaign, Ghaffar-Siddiqui points out you don’t have to be Muslim for anti-Muslim hate to kill you.

The first person to be killed in a hate-crime after 9/11 was a man named Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh man gunned down at his gas station in Arizona four days after the attacks by someone who mistook him for a Muslim. 

That’s why she and others believe the politicians who took to the stage in London after the killing of the Afzaal family need to deliver on their promises, not only for the Muslim community but for Canada as a whole.

“The face of Canada is changing,” she said.

“We have always been known for multiculturalism, but it’s one thing to show yourself as that type of nation and another to actually have the people of your nation feel safe in this country.” 

Source: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/canada-election-2021-racism-islamophobia-hate-1.6174511

‘Just a lot of talk’: Activists urge party leaders to increase focus on racism

There is a lot not being discussed during this campaign, not just racism. Liberal, NDP and Green platforms have extensive commitments, some more realistic or sensible than others. Conservative platform is surprisingly silent. Expect that there may be more discussion at the local campaign level in ridings with more visible minorities and Indigenous peoples:

Federal leaders have not focused on addressing systemic racism during the campaign, despite the urgency of the issue after findings of unmarked graves at former residential schools and rising hate against minority communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, advocates say.

While the Liberals and NDP have included programs in their election platforms to tackle barriers that people of colour face, the Conservatives don’t mention the word “racism” even once in their 150-page election plan, said Fareed Khan of Canadians United Against Hate.

Regardless of promises, Khan said the lack of discussion by Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh of fighting racism during their campaign events makes him wonder how seriously they are taking the issue.

“On the one platform when it would make the biggest impact during an election, they haven’t talked about it,” Khan said.

“So what that says to me and a lot of people, activists, is that maybe what they’ve said over the last year is just a lot of talk, and they’re not as serious about fighting hate as they said they were.”

Khan said the campaign is an opportunity for politicians to explain how they will respond to those who have protested against anti-Black racism, called for justice for Indigenous Peoples and demanded action against Islamophobia.

“The people have spoken. They want action on this,” he said.

The issue of systemic racism reached the campaign trail this week after Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet complained about a debate question that he said painted Quebecers as racist. Trudeau and Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole jumped to defend Quebec as not racist, while Singh said it’s unhelpful to single out any one province.

The question was about Quebec laws the moderator deemed “discriminatory,” including Bill 21, which bans some civil servants from wearing religious garb on the job. Mustafa Farooq, chief executive officer of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, said it was “shameful” the main party leaders did not step in to argue the law was discriminatory.

But on Friday, Trudeau told dozens of people gathered in a restaurant in Scarborough, Ont., that the pandemic hit racialized people harder than others and saw an increase in hatred and intolerance. The rise in hate has been aggravated by COVID-19 but the issue is “bigger than that,” he added.

“We see more and more white supremacist groups and racist groups taking toeholds on the internet, and more and more in our communities,” he said.

After defending his government’s record on supporting racialized communities, Trudeau promised to introduce a new law combating online hate in 100 days of his new mandate if re-elected.

Speaking to reporters in Ottawa on Friday, Singh said systemic racism is a problem many people live with every day.

“We’ve seen it in police violence (where) racialized people who had mental health or health concerns ended up losing their lives. We know that this is a problem that exists and it needs to be fixed, and we are committed to fixing it.”

O’Toole said in a statement that every day, people experience discrimination or racism in some form and he is committed to working with communities to find concrete solutions to these problems.

“Conservatives believe that the institutional failings that have led to these outcomes can and must be urgently addressed. It is imperative that we meet this challenge with practical policy changes that solve institutional and systemic problems,” he said.

While the Tory platform doesn’t contain the word “racism,” it does propose strengthening the Criminal Code to protect Canadians from online hate and notes that racialized people have been disproportionately impacted by unemployment during the pandemic.

Chief R. Donald Maracle of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte First Nation in Ontario said there are programs in place, funded federally and provincially, to eliminate racism but it still is a problem.

“First Nations people have suffered racism by government over decades, with a lack of investments to deal with housing and water and post-secondary education and also lack of opportunity for employment and training,” he said.

“In recent years the governments have invested a lot of money to try to overcome those barriers.”

He said there are many competing issues to be addressed by political leaders during the campaign with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy.

“The focus seems to be to keep the economy restarted and return to some kind of normal life for most Canadians, but again there’s a lot of racism that has caused a lot of systemic poverty,” he said.

“It’s an issue that remains outstanding to be addressed.”

Andrew Griffith, a former director at the federal immigration department, said it’s surprising that the Conservatives didn’t include any specific measures to end racism in their platform despite the rise of hate during the pandemic.

The pandemic also highlighted the link between being a member of a minority group or an immigrant community and the lack of access to health care and good housing, he said.

“Ongoing issues in terms of policing, various reports in terms of increased anti-Asian incidents, antisemitism remains perennial, attacks on Muslims, including the most recent ones in London, (Ont.), so there’s a whole series of issues there that I find it striking that there’s really nothing there in the (Conservative) platform,” he said.

Farooq, of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, said it’s saddening that federal leaders are not prioritizing tackling systemic racism.

“We have a week or so left in this federal election campaign. I would hope that they take seriously what Canadians have been asking for,” he said.

All major federal leaders travelled to London, Ont., in June to show solidarity with the Muslim community after a vehicle attack against a Muslim family left four dead and a nine-year-old boy seriously injured.

“It’s easy to talk in the aftermath of a tragedy and to say that you’re committed to action and doing something,” Farooq said. “But the real test is at a time like this. What are you actually committed to standing on and standing for?”

Source: https://globalnews.ca/news/8182949/canada-election-racism-campaign-systemic/