National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) sent an open letter to all three levels of the Canadian government on February 8, 2016, urging the government to take concrete action to “counter Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and discrimination” following the terror attack on the Centre culturel Islamique de Québec.
The open letter, endorsed by dozens of Canadian Muslim institutions and organizations across the country and their community partners, recommended that at the municipal level, all city councils should boost resources for local police services to receive training in the area of bias-neutral policing and hate crimes, to provide education and outreach to diverse communities, and to publicly release annual review of hate crimes
NCCM also calls for every province in Canada to create an Anti-Racism Directorate which will examine issues of systemic racism within the government’s mandate, and to create and support public education campaigns on related topics.
It also recommends the creation of a mandatory course on systemic racism at the secondary school level which will explore xenophobia, anti-Black racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and their impacts on Canadian society.
NCCM also urges the Parliament to declare January 29 as the “National Day of Remembrance and Action on Islamophobia”.
Finally, NCCM and its partners also call on all MPs to support the “anti-Islamophobia” motion, tabled by MP Iqra Khalid, to be voted on in Parliament February 16, 2017.
The motion, which does not define Islamophobia, asks the government to recognize the need to “quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear”, to “condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination” and “to request that the government undertake a study on how the government could develop a whole-of-government approach to reducing or eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia, in Canada”.
Critics of the motion are concerned that the motion singles out Muslims for preferential protection while ignoring other religious minorities, and that criminalizing Islamophobia, without clearly defining what Islamophobia is, would, in effect, silence all legitimate criticism of political Islam and Sharia law, and would deal a blow to free speech in Canada.
Ilana Shneider is the co-editor of CIJnews and the founding executive director of Canada-Israel Friendship Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the mutually beneficial, long-standing diplomatic, economic and cultural ties between Canada and Israel. She can be reached at [email protected]