What do we do on January 29?

Image from DawaNet, used with permission

On the evening of January 29, 2017, six worshippers were killed and 19 others injured when Alexandre Bissonnette started shooting people at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City, a mosque in the Sainte-Foy neighbourhood of Quebec City.

If we thought that the killing of 6 people and injuring of 19 people would mean that Canada would turn away from Islamophobia, were were sorely mistaken. Since the attack, Canadian racists have used alt-right newspapers and public demonstrations to fuel a movement based on hate. Hate crimes in Canada have increased and become more violent for the third straight year. Now a year later, as we take stock, there is much to be done.

We must remember the names of the killed Aboubakr Thabti, Mamadou Tanou Barry, Ibrahima Barry, Khaled Belkacemi, Azzedine Soufiane and Abdelkarim Hassane and continue to support the injured through the Centre Culturel Islamique du Québec.  What were you doing when you heard about the shootings in Quebec? Post your story here.

After the attack, Canadian Muslim leaders and community leaders issued a statement thanking people for their support and demanding municipal, provincial and federal action. The demands are excerpted from the linked statement and listed below with tools to help implement the demands, since many have not been implemented nationwide.   

Municipal:

1. All city councils to boost resources for local police services to receive training on hate crimes and to provide education and outreach to diverse communities. This would include quarterly updates to local police services boards and a publicly released annual review of hate crimes. Training should also be provided for all officers in the area of bias-neutral policing.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims has developed know your rights and anti-Islamophobia trainings for specific audiences like school teachers and police officers. In the meantime, police is looking for help from social media companies to help combat online hate speech and bullying, which is a growing problem in Canada. We were not able to find a comprehensive list of communities in which police have been trained on hate crimes, but still a lot of work to be done at the sensitization level.

Provincial:

1. All provincial governments to create an Anti-Racism Directorate (ARD), similar to that of the province of Ontario, which examines issues of systemic racism within the government’s mandate, as well as work to create and support public education campaigns on related topics.

2. All Ministries of Education to commit to creating a mandatory course on systemic racism at the secondary school level which explores xenophobia, anti-Black racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and their impacts on our society. Further, ministries should ensure that adequate resources and funding is available to provide ongoing training and resources for educators on these topics.

British Columbia has expanded its Organizing against Racism and Hate program since 2016 and Alberta has launched province-wide consultations through the Ministry of Education, but many provinces are still lagging behind. Therefore if you experience racism you should contact the National Anti-Racism Council of Canada and the Human Rights Commission in your area, according to this great guide from the Anti Racism Resource Centre. We have not heard of mandatory courses on systemic racism being introduced in schools. 

Federal

  1. All members of parliament to support Motion 103 (M103), tabled by Iqra Khalid, Member of Parliament for Mississauga-Erin Mills, which calls on the federal government to study ways in which the government can reduce or eliminate systemic racism and religious discrimination in Canada, including Islamophobia. 
  2. That January 29 be declared by Parliament as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Islamophobia.

Disappointingly, all members of parliament did not support the non-binding Motion 103 and instead it was cynically used to organize anti-Muslim rallies under the guise of protecting free speech. We are still waiting for a reaction from the government about the use of the Canadian Christian College for political organizing by racist elements of the Conservative party. 

To date the federal government has not declared January 29 as the National day of Remembrance and Action on Islamophobia. Ehab Lotayef wrote this great blog demanding action on this demand for rabble.ca.

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