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Islamophobia hotline in Alberta sees ‘significant jump’ in calls

The hotline launched in 2016. Steve Silva / Global News

A toll-free Islamophobia help hotline in Alberta has seen a dramatic increase in calls in the last week.

READ MORE: Alberta group launches toll-free Islamophobia hotline

Faisal Suri, president of the Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council, said the hotline for Muslims who have faced discrimination previously received four to five calls a week.

The organization said calls are coming in three to four times a day since last weekend, in the wake of the ban on travel to the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries ordered by U.S. President Donald Trump as well as the Quebec City mosque shooting.

“I would say that we’re getting a substantial number of calls with really, unfortunately, serious kinds of incidents,” said Mustafa Farooq, vice president of public policy at AMPAC.

“Initially we were getting a lot of employment-related questions like, ‘I’m being discriminated against based on my religion.’ Now there’s a lot of really serious calls like people are feeling in danger of physical abuse.”

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READ MORE: Canadian permanent residents exempt from Trump’s travel ban

AMPAC could not disclose the severity of the issues behind the calls but said they range from verbal abuse to notes left on vehicles.

Farooq said some of the more serious calls also relate to property damage, such as homes being vandalized.

“I think I received three of those calls yesterday,” he said. “This is in Edmonton, people reporting their homes being vandalized. And because of the nature by which they were vandalized, they highly suspect it was racially motivated.”

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AMPAC said the increase was unexpected and calls the “significant jump” a concern. It said some of the calls come from those who are seeking support and help while other calls are hate calls to the hotline.

“The vast majority of Canadians, we reject this kind of nonsense,” Farooq said. “This isn’t a country where we reject people on the basis of their religion or how they look or how they talk. We are people who welcome all and that’s the Canada we have to stand up for.”

All calls are investigated and those deemed to be hate crimes are forwarded to police.

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The hotline is province-wide but there was no geographical breakdown of where the calls are coming from.

Those who experience an Islamophobic encounter in Alberta can call 1-800-607-3312 and leave a message or they can send an email to report@ampac.ca.

AMPAC says they will respond within 24 hours.

With files from Shallima Maharaj. 

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