Following a deadly shooting of six Muslim worshippers at a Quebec City mosque in late January, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI), a registered Canadian charity which acts as an umbrella organization for immigrant and refugee-serving agencies in Ontario, issued a statement calling on the federal government to speak out against Islamophobia and racism.
OCASI urged Canadian leaders to speak out against hate and to swiftly ensure that Muslims are safe everywhere in Canada. It also called on the government to demonstrate its commitment to refugees by increasing Canada’s refugee resettlement targets which the government set at 40,000 in 2017 (down from 55,800 in 2016).
It also wants the federal government to resettle, on an emergency basis, all refugees who were previously approved for resettlement in the United States but have been denied entry following President Trump’s temporary immigration ban.
OCASI believes that Canada should immediately withdraw from the Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States, under which refugees arriving from the United States are prohibited from requesting asylum in Canada. According to OCASI, the United States “has never been safe for all refugees, and with the recent developments it is less safe”.
Canada is asked to abolish the Designated Country of Origin list, implemented by the previous Conservative government in order to reduce the number of fraudulent refugee applications by asylum seekers from countries which do not usually produce refugees, such as Australia and members of the European Union.
Finally, OCASI wants the government to undertake “widespread public education to counter racism, hate, Islamophobia and xenophobia” and to grant all illegal immigrants, including those whose asylum applications were rejected, legal status in Canada.
In the summer of 2016, OCASI, in partnership with the National Council of Canadian Muslims, launched a public education campaign – funded by the Province of Ontario and the City of Toronto – designed to address xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Immigrant sentiments, and specifically “to dispel racist claims and hateful rumours against Syrian refugees”. A similar public education campaign, launched in November 2016, highlighted the “persistence of anti-Black racism” and drew attention to discrimination against Blacks in employment and housing situations.
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]