Muslim groups on the front lines of Islamophobia aren’t getting funding

Interesting analysis at the level of Muslim sub-group level. From my experience managing the multiculturalism program, including G&Cs 2008-11, never possible to satisfy all groups and having local officials recommend projects often led to their “capture” by particular groups.

Organizational capacity is, of course, a real issue but providing this risks further increasing dependence on governments and is more difficult to sell than project funding.

Given the small size of the most funded initiatives at that time, I was never convinced of the longer-term outcomes of these projects: 

Four years ago a white supremacist walked into a Quebec City mosque and opened fire in a premeditated rampage, killing six Muslim men as they worshipped, injuring and traumatizing countless others, and altering the lives of an entire community forever.

Afterward, Canadians listened as politicians of all stripes made statements and speeches about the tragedy. But the federal government response has involved limited action. Except for passing reference to Muslims in relation to challenging online hate in Canada’s 2019-2022 Anti-Racism Strategy, any targeted focus on addressing Islamophobia appears to have evaporated since the passage of M-103, a non-binding motion condemning Islamophobia, and the ensuing report Taking Action against Systemic Racism and Religious Discrimination including Islamophobia.

Yet systemic, institutional, and societal forms of exclusion remain a daily reality for many Canadian Muslims, in part because the nuances of Islamophobia as a phenomenon remain poorly understood by public leaders and institutions. This is arguably because governments aren’t resourcing nearly enough anti-Islamophobia work led by the people and civil society groups who understand the issue and experience it most severely.

Federal anti-racism funding by the numbers

In 2019, the Department of Canadian Heritage, through its Community Support, Multiculturalism, and Anti-Racism Initiatives program, allocated just 3.7 per cent of $21 million in funding to Muslim-led and -serving organizations. (This excludes funds disbursed through the Community Support For Black Canadian Youth Initiative.)

Just 2 per cent of all funds went to organizations meaningfully led by hijab-wearing Muslim women, 0.4 per cent to organizations led by Black Muslims, and 1 per cent to first-time Muslim recipients of federal funding.

The violence targeting Muslims grounded in faith-based spaces continues unabated.

Statistics from the Anti-Racism Action Program are nominally better, with about 10 per cent of $15 million in funding going to Muslim-led organizations, although the pattern of limited engagement with organizations led by Muslims most likely to experience systemic barriers persists. Just over 3 per cent of funds through this program were secured by organizations meaningfully led by hijab-wearing Muslim women, 1.4 per cent to organizations led by Black Muslims, and 2.5 per cent to first-time Muslim recipients of federal public funding.

Both the Anti-Racism Action Program and Community Support, Multiculturalism and Anti-Racism Initiatives have been shaped by the Taking Action against Systemic Racism and Religious Discrimination including Islamophobia report, which recommends providing resources to communities most impacted by systemic racism and religious discrimination.

This is why it’s concerning that limited funding has made its way to organizations led by the Muslims most impacted by racism, exclusion, and Islamophobia.

Islamophobic violence and exclusion in Canada

In 2018, Muslims were still among those most likely to be targeted by hate crimes, after Jewish and Black Canadians (it’s not clear how hate crimes against persons with multiple and intersecting identities, for example, those who are both Black and Muslim, are classified or captured by Statistics Canada).

Data also shows Muslim women were more likely to be targeted relative to women from other groups, arguably due to the visibility of women who wear the hijab. Additional research shows that Black Muslim women consistently report the highest levels of discrimination among all Muslims across contexts, and Black Muslim men report significant barriers to political participation.

Today, the violence targeting Muslims grounded in faith-based spaces continues unabated. Just months ago, mosque volunteer Mohammed-Aslim Zafis was senselessly murderedoutside an Etobicoke mosque, and at least two mosques in Toronto and Edmonton received threats of violence.

Racism is also a theory about who should be trusted with resources and power.

Researcher and scholar Dr. Siham Rayale of the Black Muslim Initiative, an organization dedicated to addressing issues of anti-Black racism and Islamophobia, notes that hate crime statistics underrepresent the frequency of Islamophobic violence in Canada “because the threshold for what’s considered a hate crime directed at Muslims is often so high.” Statistics also don’t account for violence by state institutions, which typically impact the Muslims most excluded in Canadian society, she adds.

Further, “subtle Islamophobia” — which implicitly relies on harmful ideas about Muslims but occurs behind a polite veneer — is more difficult to measure. This is because it is “nuanced and not always a discrete event,” yet it is equally prevalent in workplaces and academic institutions, according to Raihanna Hirji-Khalfan, who has a legal background and expertise supporting individuals navigating human rights redress systems. Hirji-Khalfan notes this can be equally “violent and horrific … in terms of its impact” on Muslim workers and students, particularly those who are visibly Muslim.

Conversations like these highlight the importance of broadening understandings of Islamophobia from an issue of misguided individuals — hate crimes, online hate, and racial slurs — to a challenge that is both systemic and societal.

Why groups impacted most severely should be prioritized

Arguably, trends in who is impacted by Islamophobia and exclusion should drive how funding is allocated.

Research shows that efforts to address inequality led by individuals with lived experience are more likely to achieve and exceed their goals. And funding groups led by those closest to the issues promotes their self-determination and agency, and signals the legitimacy of their work to other public institutions and funders.

In particular, non-Black Muslims have the option to accept a “racial bribe” by supporting the racial status quo.

At its core, racism is also a theory about who should be trusted with resources and power. Orientalism, the racial theory from which contemporary Islamophobia originates, was used to justify European colonization of Muslim-majority societies and their resources, lands, and labour because Muslims were supposedly too barbaric and backwards to govern themselves. Handing resources over to racialized groups most impacted, therefore, challenges Islamophobia at a fundamental level.

This shows that resourcing the Muslim organizations led by persons who experience Islamophobia and discrimination most intimately is not just the right thing to do. It will also make our fight against Islamophobia in Canada more effective.

Historic resource inequities influence access to funding

With a relatively young and largely immigrant presence in Canada, Muslims here statistically have lower incomes, although they are more educated on average than other Canadians.

So it is unsurprising that many Muslim-led organizations are small and “don’t always have the organizational capacity — knowledge, relationships, time, and staff resources — to write successful grant applications,” says former Ontario human rights commissioner Rabia Khedr, now CEO of DEEN Support Services, a charity founded by Muslims with disabilities. This offers one explanation for the limited number of Muslim-led organizations funded under the two federal programs.

Additionally, many Muslim-led organizations “are new and it takes time to build up a history of projects to qualify for consideration by governments and foundations for funds,” says Muneeb Nasir of the Olive Tree Foundation, a Muslim-led philanthropic organization.

Public institutions resourcing anti-Islamophobia work need to broaden their understanding of Islamophobia.

Nasir adds that the few Muslim organizations able to secure funding are usually “well established and have [full-time] staff and connections to governments” as well as an ability to forge partnerships with registered charities, historically a requirement to access public funding. This highlights that organizations often need pre-existing resources to access public funding.

Recently, however, access to funding for Muslim-led groups has been improving, say Naeem Siddiqi, Olive Tree Foundation vice chair, and Dr. Katherine Bullock, a lecturer at the University of Toronto and researcher on the lived experiences of Muslims in Canada. In particular, Siddiqi notes that second-generation Muslim organizations that are “more sophisticated” and not faith based are often more successful in securing government grants.

It thus appears that while certain Muslim-led organizations have better access to public funding, barriers for others who face Islamophobia first-hand may persist because of resource and capacity constraints, as well as connections to faith-based spaces. But if we are to ensure those most impacted by Islamophobia, racism, and exclusion are able to lead anti-Islamophobia work, these issues of access to funding will need to be addressed.

‘Good Muslims,’ privilege, and access to public funding

As statistical data and multiple accounts by scholars and practitioners illustrate, not all Muslims experience Islamophobia and social exclusion in the same ways. Further, not all Muslims are willing to meaningfully challenge Islamophobia.

In particular, non-Black Muslims have the option to accept a “racial bribe” by supporting the racial status quo, which subordinates Black, Indigenous, and racialized people in society. “It benefits them financially, socially, it’s essentially self-interested,” says Dr. Rayale.

No intersectional analysis of how public funding is allocated is currently conducted.

Muslims who are visible and grounded in faith-based spaces, however, are less able do this because they are “not perceived as neutral and … already perceived as people with an agenda, and that agenda is not agreeable” to liberal institutions, says Hirji-Khalfan.

She cites an experience on a public board where a Muslim man “challenged me as to whether or not racism actually exists [in Canada] or people just play the race card” as an example of how sometimes Muslim people with power can play the “good Muslim,” upholding whiteness and contributing little to advancing conversations about racism and discrimination in society.

These nuances — visibility, connections to faith-based spaces, social class, and race — impact how Islamophobia is experienced and challenged, and are important considerations when allocating funding for anti-racism initiatives.

Addressing the challenge of underfunded Muslim groups on the front lines

If we are to meaningfully advance the fight against racism and exclusion in Canadian society, public institutions resourcing anti-Islamophobia work need to broaden their understanding of Islamophobia, from hate crimes and online hate to a form of systemic racism that can be implicit or overt and that exists in institutions too.

Public institutions need to prioritize funding for those most impacted. And as shown by the recent controversy in which the Somali Centre for Family Services was denied public funding, those reviewing grant applications must have strong knowledge of local communities and the organizations that serve their needs, and for public officials to build strong relationships with groups on the front lines as well.

Handing resources over to racialized groups most impacted, therefore, challenges Islamophobia at a fundamental level.

Further, public institutions should design funding opportunities through an anti-racism and equity lens — recognizing that those most impacted by exclusion may be running smaller, never before funded organizations and may not have grant applications that are as competitive as those from organizations with resources. Nevertheless, these small organizations may be more innovative and nimble, and have deep roots within an impacted community that can contribute to the effectiveness of their work.

Making capacity-building funding more accessible, so that small Muslim-led organizations doing critical work with limited resources can grow their infrastructure and become competitive, will also help address the challenges of underresourced anti-Islamophobia work.

Finally, while the names of recipients and the amount of federal public funding they receive is published, no intersectional analysis of how public funding is allocated is currently conducted. This data can be a helpful indicator of how the fight against racism, Islamophobia, and exclusion in Canadian society is progressing.

By taking decisive action in these ways, government and civil society organizations led by Muslims with first-hand knowledge of the issues can work hand in hand to challenge the roots of racism, exclusion, and Islamophobia in Canada. In so doing, we can ensure we put an end to national tragedies, as well as systems and structures that exclude and dehumanize.

Sanaa Ali-Mohammed is a community engaged researcher, organizer and human rights advocate based in Dish with One Spoon Treaty Territory. She sits on the board of Urban Alliance on Race Relations, which trustees the grant the Black Muslim Initiative received from the Olive Tree Foundation.

Source: Muslim groups on the front lines of Islamophobia aren’t getting funding

Feds fund 85 anti-racism projects that target economic barriers, online hate

Will look forward to the eventual evaluation of the program to assess its impact (when I worked in multiculturalism, the small size of the projects helped the various organizations but the longer-term impact was questionable):

The Liberal government has announced new funding for 85 anti-racism community projects designed to lower socio-economic barriers for racialized Canadians, tackle online hate, and monitor extreme-right groups.

Diversity and Inclusion Minister Bardish Chagger announced the projects on Thursday that would together receive $15 million under the federal Anti-Racism Action Program, the community-project component of the three-year, $45-million anti-racism strategy the federal Liberals launched last year.

Since its unveiling, the Liberal government has come under increasing pressure to boldly tackle systemic racism in Canada, particularly after anti-Black racism protests were held in American and Canadian cities following the death of George Floyd last summer.

In a scene captured on video and shared on social media to mass outrage, Floyd was a Black man who died while being aggressively pinned down by a Minneapolis police officer.

“We’ve seen the reality of racism at the front of global and national attention,” Chagger said in her virtual announcement.

“We can’t pretend systemic racism doesn’t exist in Canada. We’ve also seen how the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and amplified the many systemic inequalities present in our country.”

Projects include the Nova Scotia-based Black Business Initiative, which is getting $151,000 to tackle discriminatory structures in hiring and employment, and an initiative by Legal Aid Ontario, which is receiving $285,000 to improve race-based collection of data on the bail system.

The Canadian Anti-Hate Network is also getting $268,400 to hire four people to help monitor extreme-right groups and report on their activities.

The work of the network has taken on new urgency since its founding two years ago, said one of its board members, Amira Elghawaby, during Chagger’s announcement.

“There are more members and supporters of hate groups and dangerous conspiracy groups than there have been in at least a generation,” she said. “They’re harassing people. They’re killing people, and they need to be stopped, or at least contained.”

She said the money it’s getting from Ottawa, the first for the organization, will help it continue its exposure on social media of far-right activities, and its promotion of multiculturalism. The money will also allow it to actively fight hateful activities, not just research them.

B.C.-based Justice for Girls will get $206,970 to help Indigenous women and girls access justice, education and employment.

The Anti-Racism Action Program received a total of 1,100 applications in late 2019. Around 80 projects will likely involve Black and Indigenous communities.

The Liberal government has said the strategy is its first step in tackling systemic racism. In early July, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked his cabinet to create a “work plan” with concrete actions to fight the problem.

Last month’s speech from the throne outlined in broad strokes the Liberals’ plan. It included new legislation meant to: tackle systemic inequalities in the criminal justice system; do more to combat online hate; and increase economic opportunities for members of marginalized communities.

In a statement on Thursday, Trudeau spokeswoman Ann-Clara Vaillancourt said the government’s plans to tackle racism “will be further outlined in ministers’ mandate letters, which will be release in due course.” She said the government had made addressing systemic racism a “top priority” in the speech.

Chagger did not say when Canadians can expect more details of legislation that would enact those measures.

However, she said community organizations have told her it’s critical they get funding for more local anti-racism projects.

“We will continue ensuring that we work with community in partnership, because it’s instrumental that the decision-making table reflects the diversity of the country, and at minimum, be informed by the lived experiences of Canadians,” she said.

Unlike other anti-racism initiatives the Liberals campaigned on in the 2019 election, the promise to double funding for the anti-racism strategy wasn’t mentioned in the throne speech.

When asked about the election commitment on Thursday, Chagger would only say, “We will continue to build upon our commitments.”

Source: Feds fund 85 anti-racism projects that target economic barriers, online hate

Alberta Tories launch new program to subsidize “multiculturalism” and “inclusion”

Sounds familiar to Kenney’s reboot of the federal multiculturalism program in 2010-11 and its objectives (which were needed in their re-emphasis on the civic integration purpose of multiculturalism):

Alberta’s UCP government has created a new grant program to provide up to $25,000 a year in subsidies to organizations promoting “cross-cultural understanding, celebrating diverse backgrounds and helping Albertans understand the impacts of discrimination.”

In a news release, Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women Minister Leela Aheer said that the new Multiculturalism, Indigenous and Inclusion Grant will make Alberta “a place where all people feel their culture is valued and respected.”

Organizations can apply for the $25,000 matching grant if their proposal supports multiculturalism, indigenous issues or “inclusion projects.”

Source: Alberta Tories launch new program to subsidize “multiculturalism” and “inclusion”

Program link: Multiculturalism, Indigenous and Inclusion Grant Program

Canadian Heritage gives bureaucrats more power over arts funding

This is a significant change with past practice and it will be interesting to see if that applies to all G&C programs at Canadian Heritage, including multiculturalism (readers let me know!).

Ministerial sign-off bedevilled the Multiculturalism Program, as then Minister Kenney and his staff would refuse to sign-off on projects that had been approved by officials. However inconvenient for officials and organizations, it was in retrospect understandable and necessary given the inertia and indeed resistance among officials (see Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias: Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalism chapter 2):

Having the final sign-off on all cheques has long been emblematic of the minister’s absolute power over cultural grants and contributions at Canadian Heritage.

But Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly has decided to forfeit that power and allow her bureaucrats to approve 90 per cent of the 8,000 grants and contributions that the department awards each year.

In addition, Ms. Joly has decided to allow cultural groups to sign more multiyear agreements with Canadian Heritage, freeing them up from the obligation to send in an application every year for ministerial approval.

Ms. Joly said the measures will limit political considerations in the awarding of funding, such as favouring areas that voted for the government in power.

“There was often a lot of discretion built into our various programs, and that sometimes allowed for a more partisan approach,” Ms. Joly said at an event with reporters and representatives of cultural groups on Wednesday. “It’s not normal for some ridings not to receive any funding, when groups have a right to that money. It’s normal for us to support arts groups across the country.”

Historically, Ms. Joly said, ministers and their political staff rejected only about 2 per cent of the grants and contributions that had been approved by the bureaucracy. Still, she said partisan officials should not have the right to overturn the decisions of bureaucrats who operate in the same regions as the recipients and have greater knowledge of local needs and priorities.

Under the new system, Ms. Joly will continue to sign off on all funding awarded as part of next year’s celebrations of Canada’s 150th anniversary, and all deals worth more than $75,000, which account for about 10 per cent of the department’s annual output.

Source: Canadian Heritage gives bureaucrats more power over arts funding – The Globe and Mail

Tory MP given federal contracts months before, after failed 2008 election bid

Interesting story. In contrast to multiculturalism and  historical recognition grants and contributions (G&Cs), not delegated to officials, integration programming, largely language training, was delegated. When Minister Kenney became Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, officials had to explain why the sheer volume of G&Cs made Ministerial review impractical.

Minister Kenney had bad experience with the multiculturalism G&Cs as officials remained in denial mode, continuing to favour traditional organizations and approaches, leading the Minister to reject most proposals. Ministerial staffers would routinely Google organizations, to check for consistency between departmental descriptions of individual projects and the overall approach of the organization. It sometimes led to uncomfortable discussions, but his office was applying due diligence, more so than some of the officials (I eventually also would Google before approval).

Given the Minister’s concerns about delegation, a system was put in place to provide a heads-up on planned project approvals, an early detection system to avoid surprises and reduce the likelihood of project approval contrary to the Minister’s wishes. This was partially prompted by the Canadian Arab Federation case (Jason Kenney’s decision to cut funding to the Canadian Arab Federation):

When asked whether Diane Finley, who was the CIC minister at the time, was aware of the contract, spokesman Marcel Poulin said only that “officials award contracts, not ministers.”

That fall, Ms. Young ran in Vancouver South for the Conservatives, losing by just 20 votes to Liberal incumbent Ujjal Dosanjh.

The questions about the first contract didn’t deter Ms. Young’s consulting firm – her office declined to say how many employees the firm had beyond Ms. Young – from seeking a second one just over a year after the election. The November, 2009, pact totalled $452,900 for planning the same conference, this time in early 2010. It included $337,000 for “program delivery” and $115,900 for “administrative” functions. Again, the specific costs are redacted.

A spokeswoman for Jason Kenney, who had succeeded Ms. Finley as CIC minister when the second contract was awarded, said he had “no knowledge of or involvement” with the contracts.

A statement from the department echoed that. “Both contracts were assessed and approved by the appropriate delegated departmental official,” spokeswoman Sonia Lesage said.

Tory MP given federal contracts months before, after failed 2008 election bid – The Globe and Mail.

Millions in federal multiculturalism funding goes unspent each year

Thanks to ATIP, the numbers are public, showing ongoing lapsing funds, despite the Conservative government remake of the program in 2010, aligning program objectives to the government’s priorities, and putting into place a call for proposal process that generated a wide range of project proposals.

Millions in federal multiculturalism funding goes unspent each year.