Mississauga Hindu temples’ outdoor hymns expose public divide during pandemic

Of note:

Hindu temples across Mississauga have begun broadcasting daily hymns outdoors for believers who are unable to gather in large groups and partake in three major Hindu festivals after the city granted them a noise bylaw exemption.

The exemption mirrors one made for Mississauga mosques in May, so they could broadcast a daily call to prayer during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. At the time, a small Hindu group was opposed to the idea, but now say if Muslims are allowed an exemption, they should be too.

In late April, some Mississaugans voiced strong opposition to the city’s exemption for calls to prayer. A Facebook group called “Mississauga Call to Prayer on LoudSpeaker Unconstitutional,” which had 10,445 members on Thursday, was fundraising to pursue legal action against the city over the decision after it was approved.

Canadians United Against Hate released a statement asking city council to uphold the decision, saying many of those who were putting pressure on city hall were “Islamophobic and racist elements in Mississauga.”

The community debate in Mississauga exposes a divide over public space and sounds during a pandemic when people are reluctant to gather indoors.

“Initially we opposed calls for prayers during the holy month of Ramadan,” said Rao Yenbamuri, president of Hindu Forum Canada (HFC) – a seven-member Mississauga-based not-for-profit formed in March. A May 2 letter on the group’s website called it “a violation of our secular values.”

“We think that such a precedent would not be practical in a multifaith community, that’s the reason we opposed it,” he said in an interview with The Globe and Mail, adding that despite multiple attempts to communicate with politicians, the decision went forward. “So given these circumstances, we would like the same privileges to be extended to us.”

Amira Elghawaby, a journalist and human-rights advocate who sits on the board of Anti-Hate Network Canada, said many Canadian Muslims face Islamophobia and discrimination under the guise of secularism.

“We see that happening very prominently in Quebec with Bill 21,” she said, referring to a law that prevents many public servants from wearing religious symbols at work, “and we saw it happening in Mississauga and other jurisdictions in the country when the call to prayer was permitted during the month of Ramadan because of the pandemic.”

Ms. Elghawaby also said there was no need “to create us versus them narratives” between both communities.

“I think it’s important to understand that Canada is a country of diversity and diverse raising and diverse backgrounds of people, and all of that is what makes our country strong and rich,” she said. “And we all actually get stronger when our communities are able to fulfill their identities in ways that [are] meaningful to them.”

Kushagr Sharma, a volunteer for Mississauga’s Hindu Heritage Centre, says broadcasting the hymns will help build a sense of connection for many who felt isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A lot of seniors want to come to the temple, just to be there physically but not come inside,” he said.

“So a lot of people would come outside, do their prayers in their cars and leave. But they weren’t able to hear the hymns and the prayers that go on.”

Playing the hymns outdoors also ensures seniors and other vulnerable community members can feel safe, Mr. Sharma said. The temple is not affiliated with HFC and had no prior knowledge of its opposition to broadcasting calls to prayers during the month of Ramadan, he added.

The bylaw exemption allows the temples to broadcast religious hymns every night at 7 p.m., for five minutes, between Aug. 11 and Sept. 1.

Varsha Naik, executive director of the Regional Diversity Roundtable of Peel, and a long-time member of the Interfaith Council of Peel, said all faith communities need places where they feel safe to practise their respective religions.

“We need to ensure that nobody in the community gets isolated,” Ms. Naik said. “And especially with COVID-19, we need to create that sense of community, that sense of celebration.”

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-mississauga-hindu-temples-play-hymns-outdoors/

After Arab countries, now Canada punishes Indian origin man for Islamophobia; terminated from job and removed from school body as probe continues

Of note:

Days after several Indian expats were removed from their jobs in the Arab countries for displaying Islamophobia using their social media pages, Canada has cracked the whip on an Islamophobe by removing him from a school body and terminating his contract with one of the leading real estate companies in the North American country. Ravi Hooda has now made his Twitter account private after politicians and civil society members in Canada reacted with outrage on his brazen Islamophobia.

This all started with several Toronto-area municipalities granting local mosques permission to broadcast the Azaan or call to prayer using loudspeakers during Iftaar (breaking of fast) every day during Ramadan. The move was widely hailed since Muslims could not gather in mosques due to the global coronavirus pandemic.

Brampton too followed suit and decided to allow Muslims in its region to use loudspeakers for the sunset Azaan. This did not go down well with a local Islamophobe, identified as Ravi Hooda, who launched a tirade mocking Muslims and their faith. He wrote, “What’s next? Separate lanes for camel & goat riders, allowing slaughter of animals at home in the name of sacrifice, bylaw requiring all women to cover themselves from head to toe in tents to appease the piece fools for votes.”

Hooda’s tweet sent shockwaves across Canada, which is globally renowned for its liberal values. Peel District School Board in Brampton announced that it had removed Hooda as ‘School Council Chair’ and investigation was underway against him. Its tweet read, “The Principal has begun an investigation. The individual is being removed from their role as School Council Chair and won’t be able to participate on council in any other capacity. Islamophobia is not acceptable and a clear violation of our Safe and Accepting Schools Policy.”

ReMax Canada, which is one of Canada’s top real estate marketing websites, too informed that it had terminated Hooda’s contract. It tweeted, “We do not share nor support the views of Mr. Hooda. We can confirm he has been terminated and is no longer affiliated with RE/MAX. Multiculturalism & diversity are some of the best qualities in our communities, and we are committed to upholding these values in all that we do.”

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown too said that Islamophobia will not be tolerated in Canada. He wrote, “Our noise by law originally passed in 1984 only included an exemption for Church bells. It will now include all faiths within the permitted hours & decibel levels. The Muslim community can proceed with the sunset azan because it’s 2020 & we treat all faiths equally. #Ramadan.”

Curiously, Hooda is also a registered certified immigration consultant. It remains to be soon if the government will consider revoking his licence in light of his Islamophobic views.

Source: After Arab countries, now Canada punishes Indian origin man for Islamophobia; terminated from job and removed from school body as probe continues

Lack of council diversity puts municipalities at risk

Good and thoughtful analysis by former colleague Erin Tolley. One of the paradoxes is that federal and provincial visible minority representation is reasonably good, with the major gap being at the municipal level. Her work in understanding why this is so is important:

Local politics are often viewed as an entry point into political life. Municipal candidacy requires less money, gatekeeping by traditional political parties is relatively absent, and successful candidates who become councillors can fulfill their terms at home without having to uproot their families to the provincial or federal capital. As a result, we might expect to see city councils that are more diverse. However, that expectation is simply not borne out, as we saw recently in Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa, where only a handful of racialized councillors won seats in the October 22 municipal elections.

But less has been said in the media about Mississauga, the country’s sixth-largest city and one where the lack of racialized representation on the municipal council is perhaps especially acute. In Mississauga, 57 percent of the residents identify as members of a “visible minority” (more than in Toronto, Vancouver or Ottawa), and there is now just one racialized councillor, Dipika Damerla. Prior to that, Mississauga’s council was entirely White.

In fact, most municipalities in Canada are governed by councils that are predominantly White and mostly male. Women, racialized minorities, Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities and LGBTQ individuals are numerically underrepresented on most city councils. The lack of diversity means many voices are excluded from the decision-making process. This puts municipalities at risk. Large swaths of the population may feel underrepresented or ignored, and council may miss out on important views.

Damerla, a former provincial politician, ran in a Mississauga ward that was vacated after the retirement of a 30-year council veteran. The presence of long-time incumbents and the significant advantage they wield is one reason the demographic profile of municipal councils has remained so stagnant. Some have talked about the need for sitting councillors to “make way” for more diverse voices. In London, Ontario, Arielle Kayabaga, the first Black woman to serve on that city’s council, was elected. Late in the campaign, her candidacy was endorsedby Rod Morley, who dropped out of the race to put his support behind the only woman candidate in the ward. Morley has run for provincial and municipal office before but, in explaining his decision to leave the race, he told the London Free Press, “The power (balance) is wrong right now. I want to try to do something about that.”

In Mississauga, just two sitting councillors opted not to run for re-election this time around. The incumbents who did run were all re-elected, some garnering more than 90 percent of the vote. These incumbents block the road to newcomers. Limiting the number of terms that mayors and councillors could serve might help, but term limits are virtually unheard of in Canadian politics, and they remain a controversial measure.

It’s not that there is a shortage of racialized candidates in Mississauga. Of the 78 candidates who ran for council in this election cycle, 44 were racialized Canadians. That’s 56 percent of all contenders. Moreover, every ward race included two or more racialized candidates, as did the race for mayor. In the most tightly contested ward, seven of the 11 candidates were racialized, but the incumbent, Ron Starr, was ultimately victorious.

The issue is not that racialized candidates aren’t running in Mississauga. The issue is that voters aren’t choosing them.

Low voter turnout is an important factor. In Mississauga, voter turnout was just 27 percent, and there is evidence that racialized Canadians are less likely to vote than White Canadians. When we look at variations in voter turnout, socio-economic explanations are influential, but we also need to think about role model effects. If racialized minorities are looking at the political landscape, and they do not see their concerns being reflected, they are less likely to engage in the process. It is thus a vicious cycle. Strategies to increase voter turnout among racialized minorities must be a part of any effort to address the persistent Whiteness of municipal politics.

Finally, there is the question of voter preference. All else being equal, we know that voters gravitate toward candidates with whom they share an ethnic or racial background. This is the same for White voters and for racialized voters, and it is particularly apparent in municipal contests, where voters’ electoral decision-making occurs in what is often called a “low-information” context.

In cities like Mississauga, where municipal candidates run without party labels and there is limited local media coverage, voters have to rely on other cues to sift through their ballot box options. Name recognition is one such cue. But voters also use candidates’ race, gender and other sociodemographic characteristics as a shortcut to infer information about politicians’ issue positions, policy preferences and suitability for office. There is a tendency for voters to believe that candidates who are most similar to themselves will be best able to represent them. Decision-making shortcuts play a role in all electoral campaigns, but they matter especially in local politics because of the absence of other information.

In a low-information context where demographic cues play a role, turnout is low, White voters are more numerous and the field is dominated by White incumbents, the outcome — mostly White councils — is entirely predictable.

But in Mississauga, there is even more to the story.  The second-place finisher in the mayoral race is a candidate who was charged with a hate crime in a case still before the courts on election day. That candidate received more than 16,000 votes and the support of 13.5 percent of Mississauga electors. Clearly, there is a segment of the city’s population for whom racial equality is not top-of-mind. The vote is a means of registering resistance. It gives voters a tool to fill the seats of decision-making tables with representatives for whom equity and inclusion are guiding principles. When prospective voters opt out (or are left out), the risk is that those spaces will be ceded to other voices.

In the absence of more diverse representation, what can elected bodies do to ensure marginalized voices are included? One thing Mississauga has done is to create a Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee to provide advice to council on “ethno-cultural relations and diversity matters.” The committee includes the mayor and two councillors as well as 20 community representatives. The committee is advisory in nature, so it is not a replacement for elected representation. However, it could give members exposure, networks and experience that might serve them well if they choose to enter electoral politics.

Diversity on council isn’t a matter of political correctness. It goes to the heart of representative democracy, which is premised on elected bodies reflecting the citizens they serve. Elected bodies are unlikely to ever be a perfect microcosm of society, but the persistent homogeneity of municipal councils is of concern. Councillors invariably draw on their own experiences and beliefs when they exercise their duties, and plenty of evidenceshows that decision-making tables are more effective when they include a broader range of perspectives. The exclusion of diverse voices from municipal councils may result in flawed policies, and that threatens the effectiveness and very legitimacy of the decisions that are taken.

Source: Lack of council diversity puts municipalities at risk

Mississauga’s population is 57% visible minorities. So why does its city council look like this?

In general, diversity is significantly greater at the federal and provincial levels than municipal.

I look forward to comparing the results of the upcoming Toronto election: thanks to the (disruptive) change to electoral boundaries, it will be possible to compare federal, provincial and municipal results given identical boundaries:

According to the 2016 census, 57 per cent of Mississauga, Ont., residents identified as visible minorities. However, not one of them was elected to the city’s 11 council seats in 2014. (Mississauga)

As a rookie politician taking on an incumbent city councillor, Safeeya Faruqui is already staring down long odds in the upcoming Mississauga, Ont., municipal election.

But if the 24-year-old succeeds in her bid for Ward 4 on Oct. 22, she’ll have made history too — becoming the first woman of colour elected to city council in the mostly suburban city west of Toronto.

“That would be another glass ceiling broken,” Faruqui told CBC Toronto at her campaign office. “We need to make sure that all voices are being heard to create the best society that we can.”

Faruqui’s campaign is bringing new attention to the glaring disparity between the general population in southern Ontario’s Peel Region and the makeup of its city councils.

According to the 2016 census, 57 per cent of Mississauga residents identified as visible minorities. However, not one of them was elected to the city’s 11 council seats in 2014.

In neighbouring Brampton, where 73 per cent of residents identify as visible minorities, just one of the city’s 10 councillors is a person of colour.

Neither city has ever had a non-white mayor.

Why it matters

Faruqui says lack of diversity on council has resulted in some policy decisions that don’t fully account for the city’s diverse population.

“The decisions aren’t reflecting everybody,” she said.

Gurpreet Singh Dhillon, the lone visible minority on Brampton’s council, points to an ongoing struggle in the city to build a shade shelter for seniors to explain why diversity can be helpful.

He said older residents in his community have been seeking to recreate the tradition of gathering and socializing under a large willow tree, which began in India, with an artificial shade as a replacement.

Singh, 38, said the project has been stalled because some elected officials and city staff did not understand the request, since they were not familiar with the tradition.

“It’s really important that we have people in our staffing, and our council who understand,” he said. After serving one term as a city councillor, Singh is now running as the regional councillor for Wards 9 and 10.

“It’s even more important going forward that we do have a council that does reflect the community,” he added.

There are also concerns that the lack of accurate representation has also stalled civic engagement and created distrust in local governments among visible minority communities.

“Our community has not been doing a good enough job to remedy that,” said Faruqui, who added that “real, frank, open discussions” are needed to restore faith in local politics.

If elected, Dhillon says he will advocate for the creation of a diversity officer at Brampton city hall, who would review everything passed by city council to ensure no minority communities — whether by ethnicity, gender, age or sexual orientation — are negatively affected.

He said similar initiatives have been successful in other cities around the world.

‘Overwhelming but… exciting’

During her first term in office, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, who is running for re-election, helped introduce a diversity and inclusion advisory committee. The group provides strategic advice to council in an effort to better serve the city’s diverse population.

Still, Crombie said she would welcome more variety among the city’s elected officials.

“It would be wonderful if we could have a very diverse council that reflects the diversity that is our city,” Crombie told CBC Toronto.

As to why so few visible minorities have been elected, Crombie pointed to a slew of long-serving incumbent councillors, who are notoriously difficult to unseat in municipal elections.

“Some of them have been in office a long period of time,” she said. “And the city has changed over the years.”

Due to a death and a retirement, two of the city’s council seats will be open races this election. She said that has opened up an opportunity for a number of “wonderful diverse candidates” running this fall.​

Faruqui, however, is competing against incumbent John Kovac.

“Going through this for the first time, not really having any role models who look like me doing this, it’s something that is overwhelming but also very exciting,” she said.

Source: Mississauga’s population is 57% visible minorities. So why does its city council look like this?

Mississauga mayor files hate-crime complaint after inflammatory article

Valid complaint (the website subsequently took down the offending post):

Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie says she has filed a hate-crime complaint with Peel police after a local website published an article claiming the mayor is trying to convert the city to Islam so “they can kill her son just for being gay.”

The article, published by the Mississauga Gazette on Friday, also claims that Crombie “won’t rest until all girls in Mississauga are victims of rich rapists,” describing the actions of Muslim boys in Mississauga high schools, claiming they routinely assault girls.

“Racism and flat-out lies have no place in Mississauga,” Crombie said Saturday.

“I was very disturbed. I have sent the article to Peel police . . . To paint any group like this, based on religion or ethnicity or anything, is reprehensible.”

Crombie said she has also contacted her own lawyer to address what she believes is a libel against her. The article’s listed author is Acton Michaels, identified as the Gazette’s editor in chief. He did not respond to the Star.

A man who confirmed to the Star that he’s the webmaster and co-owner of the Gazette said that though he might have posted the article, he is not responsible for it. “I’m responsible for the stuff I write . . . everybody else, I just put the content up,” said Kevin Johnston.

“To be honest with you, I didn’t entirely read the article, I just knew it was about young ladies being pestered by Muslim boys at a high school.”

Johnston said his recollection is that he launched the publication in 2014. According to the website, which features numerous ads promoting restaurants, sports leagues, developers and at least one of Canada’s major banks, the Mississauga Gazette has 13 people working for it including Johnston and Michaels.

 Asked if he will remove the article from the website, Johnston said, “If I’m instructed by a court of law with my name on the court order to remove something, I certainly would.” He also said it will be removed if one of the website’s investors or co-owners asked him to do so.

Asked if it would be removed for any possible legal issue, he responded: “Would I do it because you’re suggesting that some article . . . that was placed on a website should come down because . . . Bonnie thinks it should? No, I wouldn’t do that.”

Last year Crombie publicly criticized Johnston during a council meeting after he spread literature denigrating the Muslim community while advocating against the construction of a proposed new mosque. Crombie, city staff and all but one councillor supported the mosque’s construction, which was approved.

After the Gazette article’s publication, Johnston said, the Muslim community is “the only community that (Crombie is) doing anything for. I mean, come on, we have Islamic Heritage Month now in Ontario for the entire month of October. I take issue with that.”

Since being elected in 2014, Crombie has helped organize an effort to raise $5 million to settle Syrian refugees, championed the new mosque’s construction and last month led a push for a city-wide parking exemption to accommodate celebrations for Eid al-Adha, a significant Islamic holy day.

The article published Friday includes the headline, “Bonnie’s Muslims Are Molesting Teenage Girls in Mississauga Highschools.” It claims that Michaels was told by the father of a Grade 10 student at Rick Hansen Secondary School that she has been routinely assaulted by Muslim boys there. The article claims that the school has refused to comment and that such incidents involving Muslim boys are common in Mississauga high schools.

Source: Mississauga mayor files hate-crime complaint after inflammatory article | Toronto Star

Mississauga Mayor Crombie refuses to apologize over mosque stance

Crombie called it correctly (Mississauga is about 12 percent Muslim):

Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie stood up in council Wednesday and adamantly declared, “I stand by the remarks I made,” refusing to apologize to a group of residents alleging she had labelled them racists for refusing to support a new mosque.

Crombie told residents — who presented a petition demanding an apology, claiming she had turned a planning issue into a race issue — that she singled out only one resident at a council meeting two weeks ago for his views.

Kevin Johnston admitted distributing literature urging people to support stopping the mosque. He claimed if the mosque is built current residents would leave in droves, creating “another Canadian cultural hole.” He argued the mosque did not fit with the neighbourhood, would drive up crime and vandalism, set back women’s rights and impact housing prices.

The brochure depicted a Canadian flag with a Muslim crescent moon and star in the middle, instead of the maple leaf, offering it as a warning to readers. He urged people to visit his website, stopthemosque.com and sign a petition.

Johnston has since changed the content of the website to focus only on planning issues.

“It was uncalled for, it was unCanadian, it was heinous and it was wrong,” Crombie responded to the group of residents demanding an apology inside the council chamber, as a much larger group that filled one side of the seats erupted in applause.

In a verbal statement at council on Wednesday Johnston said he has paid a price for his position.

“What I would also like to say here is the term hate monger was regrettably brought forth by yourself Madame Mayor. It is something that well, congratulations to you, cost me my job and also, congratulations to you, cost me the ability to work locally so I will have to probably work outside of Mississauga but I won’t be leaving.”

“What I do want to say clearly to the entire Muslim community (is that) I do want to talk to you this is not something where I’m saying I am anti-Muslim, I am not anti-individual but I do know the problems that will come up with this building so if you do want to have conversations please call me,” he said.

Source: Crombie refuses to apologize over mosque stance | Toronto Star

How immigration has helped to shape today’s Mississauga

Good profile on how subsequent waves of immigration and growth have shaped Mississauga:

By the time the City of Mississauga formed in 1974, the federal government had rethought these policies and officially embraced multiculturalism. The young city was growing rapidly and, with an ample supply of affordable housing in its subdivisions, it was well placed to attract immigrants keen to make a new life here. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s its population boomed, rising from 235,000 to hit 446,000 by 1990, primarily driven by arrivals of new Canadians.

Europeans continued to come, often settling in the established neighbourhoods in the south of the city, while Asian immigrants frequently made their homes in the subdivisions being constructed north of Dundas.

Although some areas had concentrations of people from particular countries – Lakeview, for instance, had had a large Portuguese population since the 1950s – Mississauga didn’t develop culturally dominated neighbourhoods in the manner of the Danforth or Chinatown in Toronto.

Still, at the end of the 1980s the city’s demographic tilt towards Asia began to be unmistakably reflected in its urban fabric. In 1987, Masjid Al-Farooq opened on Eglinton Ave., becoming the city’s first purpose-built mosque. A year later a major Sikh temple opened on Dixie Rd., which is now one of the largest in Canada.

Although tensions simmer from time to time – as they are currently in Meadowvale, where plans for an 18,500-sq.-ft. mosque have been met with considerable opposition from locals, some of whom object to its proposed dome and minaret as being out of character – in general, inter-community friction has been notable more for its absence than presence in Mississauga.

Some observers suggest that its highly diverse population, where no single ethnicity visibly predominates, has created conditions where there is little fear of being swamped by another’s culture, allowing space to explore – and even celebrate – differences.

How immigration has helped to shape todays Mississauga.

Racism is prevalent, persisting and perpetually growing, experts warn

Interesting piece of perceived racism in the 905 communities of Bramptom and Mississauga (Toronto area), some of the most diverse communities in Canada. Bit long, and I think reality is a bit more nuanced than some of the results and commentary would indicate (Globe did a series on Brampton a number of months ago):

Racism is prevalent, persisting and perpetually growing, experts warn.