The counter to hate ‘comes from each of us in our communities,’ PM says at Hamilton mosque visit

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes selfies with community members at the Hamilton Mountain Mosque after speaking to the congregation to recognize Eid al-Adha in Hamilton, Ont., Tuesday, July 20, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

Canada’s Prime Minister says in light of “ugly” Islamophobic incidents like the killing of our family members in London and attack on two women in Ancaster it’s up to the country’s communities to “pull together” and be “allies for each other” with a rise in racism.

Speaking at the Hamilton Mountain Mosque on Stone Church Road East Tuesday morning, Justin Trudeau suggested stress from the COVID-19 pandemic has given way to “the worst elements” of division and anger which have been aimed at several groups including the Muslim population.

Trudeau says the “brighter future” and potential resolution to quelling hate must be made through residents with continued interfaith dialog, engagement and education.

“And the counter to that as much as we’d like it to be ‘oh the government ought to pass another law,’ and we will, but the counter to that actually comes from each of us in our communities, in our cities of reaching out to each other,” Trudeau said.

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Read more: London, Ont. mosque offers 61 recommendations ahead of National Summit on Islamophobia

The comments come just days before the upcoming National Summit on Islamophobia on Thursday.

The CEO of the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) says although the population in Canada is not “monolithic,” some who identify with the religion have expressed recent concerns about integrating into their communities.

“I would say that there are many Canadian Muslims right now who are afraid,” Mustafa Farooq told Global News.

“I have talked to many families personally who no longer are comfortable walking outside alone.”

Going into Thursday’s summit, the NCCM, along with the London Muslim Mosque, made 61 recommendations which include reforming the Canada Revenue Agency and Criminal Code Amendments to better deal with hate crimes, developing anti-Islamophobia strategies in education at the provincial level, and launching municipal anti-racism campaigns.

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Farooq says educating youth is paramount since Montreal mosque shooter Alexandre Bissonnette and London attack suspect Nathaniel Veltman were in their 20s when they committed their alleged acts.

“We need to do more to make sure that young folks are not growing up just seeing the crazy things that they see online, but are really getting to learn about who Canadian Muslims are,” Farooq said.

Read more: Trudeau says he would support a criminal investigation into residential schools  

“There’s a lot of misinformation about Canadian Muslim communities and the diversity of what those perspectives actually look like.”

He goes on to say that at the government level, Canada’s supports against Islamophobia are “completely unsatisfactory” to deal with the current scale of the problem.

“Given Canada’s record on this over the last five years, we need to see a systemic approach to dismantling Islamophobia in Canada,” said Farooq.

During a presser Tuesday afternoon at Indwell’s Royal Oak Dairy project in Hamilton, Trudeau says the summit on July 22 will touch on “deliberate and measured steps” that can be taken by the federal government to counter online harms and give more power to the justice system.

“We’re working with police officers and agencies to ensure that we’re both countering systemic racism within that, but also making sure they’re connecting better with communities,” Trudeau said.

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The PM said in relation to the spread of hate on digital platforms, Ottawa is moving forward with a digital charter in the hopes of mitigating freedoms of speech with keeping Canadians safe.

However, he said trying to regulate that universe while maintaining the fundamentals of democracy are “extremely difficult.”

“Anyone who tells you there’s an easy answer to that is trying to sell you something,” Trudeau said.

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