The federal government is hosting a summit on Islamophobia Thursday following a series of violent, targeted attacks that killed or injured Muslim Canadians and left communities across the country in shock.
Diversity Minister Bardish Chagger said the summit will be an opportunity for Muslim Canadians to express their ideas and insights on how Ottawa can stop these attacks and implement policies that protect their communities.
She said there is a need for more work to protect Muslim communities against hate and discrimination fuelled by Islamophobia and the government has worked with national Muslim-led organizations to convene the summit.
Speaking at the summit Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged all Canadians to fight for the kind of Canada “we all want to see.”
“A place where we celebrate diversity, where we stand together, we look out for each other,” he said.
“That’s the promise our country must work hard to live up to because too many times and for too many people, that promise has been broken,” he added.
The prime minister also addressed the need to fight misinformation with education and to ensure that Muslim Canadians feel safe.
“We’re investing in infrastructure to protect everything from mosques to community centers and to keep violence out of our communities or cracking down on online extremism and banning far right hate groups,” he said.
“Wherever division threatens to take hold in our country, we must remain a strong and united.”
Trudeau further emphasized that there’s much work to be done to “get the country and the world that we all dream of.”
“As many of you have pointed out, part of the path forward must be a public service that is inclusive rather than just diverse,” he said.
“I’m here to listen to you on what our next steps should be to continue building a country where everyone is welcome, safe and respected. This is not your burden to carry alone as a society. This is everyone’s responsibility to take on.”
Members of Parliament unanimously adopted a motion calling on the government to convene an emergency summit on Islamophobia on June 11, a few days after a vehicle attack against a Muslim family in London, Ont., left four dead and a nine-year-old boy seriously injured.
A spate of hate-motivated attacks targeted several hijab-wearing Muslim women in Alberta in recent months. Last September, a Muslim man was stabbed to death while volunteering in a Toronto mosque.
Nusaiba Al-Azem, a vice chair of the London Muslim Mosque, said Muslim communities expect tangible change from all levels of government to address rising anti-Muslim hate.
She told reporters in London, Ont., on Monday that she felt particularly strongly about Quebec’s secularism law, known as Bill 21, that prohibits some public sector workers including teachers, police officers and judges from wearing religious symbols at work.
Al-Azem said that she, as a visibly Muslim female lawyer, would be forced to choose between either practising her faith or her profession if she moved to Quebec and worked for the office of the Crown.
She said the federal justice minister should be involved in all legal challenges of Bill 21, which she described as a “discriminatory law which disproportionately targets religious minorities including our Jewish and Sikh brothers and sisters.”
The National Council of Canadian Muslims released 61 recommendations to fight anti-Muslim hate across Canada ahead of the Islamophobia summit.
Mustafa Farooq, chief executive officer of the NCCM, said the federal government currently doesn’t have any specific resources or strategy specifically aiming to fight Islamophobia.
He said his organization’s calls for action include urging the federal government to create an office of a special envoy on Islamophobia and to invest in a specific anti-Islamophobia strategy.
“Simultaneously, the federal government needs to commit to fighting Islamophobia at the systemic level within government through looking at profiling at the CRA of Muslim-led charities, or how national security agencies have continued to profile Canadian Muslims and other racialized minorities,” he said.
He said provinces should commit to anti-Islamophobia strategies in education and should create provincial hate-crime accountability units.
“We need to see action. And we need to see it now,” he said. “Governments attending the summit must know that we want more than their attendance. We want to see their commitment to timelines.”
— With files from Global News