The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights (RIDR)
Islamophobia in Canada Study
Chair: Hon, Salma Ataullahian
Deputy Chair: Hon Wanda Thomas Bernard
Members of the committee: Hon. David M Arnot, Hon. Amina Gerba, Mobina S.B. Hon. Jaffer, Hon. Yonah Martin, Hon. Paula Simons.
Witness: Mr. Samer Majzoub, the president of Canadian Muslim Forum (FMC-CMF),
Intervention; Islmophobia forms & shapes, hate speech & hate crimes against Canadian Muslims.
Montreal, Quebec, CANADA
September 20, 2022
Thank you for the invitation. Today as I stand here to testify as a witness for Muslim Canadians who are facing sky rocketing forms of hate and Islamophobia across the country that include violent ones.
Let me first walk you through two of the Main terror horrific attacks that sent shockwaves through the spine of all Canadians and Muslim Canadians in particular.
- The Quebec Mosque massacre was one of the most horrific terror attacks that our country has witnessed in its recent history. January 29, 2017, hate manifested itself in its most bloody way by shooting to death innocent Canadians in space of peace while praying in Quebec City Grand mosque. . On 29th January 2017 at around 7:54 p.m. a gunman stormed Québec City Mosque leaving 6 Canadian men dead, 17 orphans, 6 widows and one man with lifelong disability
- The terror attack in London, ON, June 6, 2021 eliminated a Canadian family of Muslim faith by ramming up a pick-up truck onto the Afzaal family while they stood on the sidewalk killing 4 of the 5 family members. A child, the only survival of this massacre, will simply have no one that will wipe his tears, his pain and his concerns as he grows up. His family will not be beside him when he goes to school, and the day he graduates; he will not be able to celebrate neither mother’s Day nor father’s Day ever again!
These two deadly crimes are some of the terror assaults that have come into light given their grieve dimension. Every day, Muslims face Islamophobia in many forms. Moreover, Islamophobia has been demonstrated as an extreme “deadly” form of hatred not only toward Canadians of Muslim faith, but, also against all citizens of this country and against our values, integrity and human dignity.
To showcase its existence, let me walk you through some of the dates that are of importance to the subject matter;
- September 2009: the Canadian Muslim Forum (FMC-CMF) had formed the “Islamophobia task committee”, a first of its kind in Canada. The committee main task was to create awareness among societal stakeholders’ and work on tackling Islamophobia across the country.
- June 2nd 2010 was the first ever parliamentary day at the Hill by FMC-CMF delegation designated for the subject of Islamophobia. MP Mr. Richard Nadeau welcomed the delegation by a statement read on the floor recognizing its presence and the concerns of Islamophobia impacts on the community. The years that followed that parliamentary day were spent in non-stop quest to make sure that Islamophobia becomes a point of interest for Canadians from all backgrounds and stripes.
- June 8, 2016, at 5:45 p.m. was another crucial date and time for the “creation” of the “infrastructure interest and concern” in tackling Islamophobia in Canada. In that date a petition known by E-411 requesting the Canadian House of Commons to recognize and condemn Islamophobia in the country was open to signatures. The petition was initiated by the president of the Canadian Muslim Forum, Samer Majzoub, and sponsored by Mr. Frank Baylis, Ex MP Liberal Party of Canada who presented the petition to the House on Dec 6, 2016. The uniqueness of such a petition is that it was posted at the website of the House of Commons in Ottawa that required government response. The petition had achieved very noticeable success by collecting close to 70,000 thousands signatures from across the country. This significant number of signatures that the petition attained required tremendous efforts by FMC-CMF teams including effective mobilization from cost to cost to cost; Canadian communities, hundreds of volunteers, stakeholders at all levels and decision makers from all backgrounds in support of the petition. The E-411 petition has been the base achievement of all the concrete relevant steps that have been taken place subsequently.
- October 26, 2016 witnessed the first real and actual milestone achievement at the “political” level, not only in Canada, but in the Western world as well. As the result and following the success of petition E-411, Canada legislative’s body, House of Commons, was the first in the Western world to adapt a motion unanimously to condemn all forms of Islamophobia. It followed unsuccessful attempt on Oct 5 2016. No doubt that the fact that the motion was adopted, at that time, without any objection from any of the federal political parties’ MPs, reflected its importance to all Canadians across the political spectrum.
- End of October 2016 parallel to its pursuit of the adaptation of the House of the motion condemning all forms of Islamophobia, FMC-CMF was looking for the next step with regards to “concrete policies” tackling Islamophobia. Mr. Samer Majzoub, FMC-CMF president, expressed in an interview his appreciations to all Canadian federal parties and attributed the success of the motion to “true Canadian values”. He said: “the motion would open doors and lead to discussion of concrete policies around the issue”. Accordingly, during the month of October 2016, FMC-CMF established direct line of communication with MP Mrs. Iqra Khalid, MP, Liberal Party of Canada, seeking her readiness to present a private motion at the House to adopt “policies” to tackle the Islamophobia phenomena in Canada. By the end of the month, Mrs. Khalid showed all the enthusiasm to sponsor a private motion, came to be known as motion M-103, in this regard.
- March 23, 2017, the adaptation by the House of Commons of the private motion M-103 presented by MP Mrs. Iqra Khalid. The motion condemned Islamophobia for the second time at the House and called for a parliamentary committee to study how to tackle racism and religious discrimination in the country. There is no doubt that the debates, and sometimes heated ones, over the motion M-103, and what followed the private motion had brought up the subject of Islamophobia to the peak attention of Canadian public.
- January 29, 2019, as per the recommendations that came out of the M-103 parliamentarian committee, FMC-CMF and CJPME launched a Canada-wide campaign including a professional survey on Islamophobia, which results were published to the media. Moreover, another parliamentary full day was held on Jan 29 2019 calling for the designation of January 29th as a National Day of Remembrance and Action on Islamophobia and other forms of religious discrimination. This request came as per one of the recommendations of the report from Parliament’s Heritage Committee following motion, M103.
- June 2019, Hon Minister Pablo Rodriguez, minister of Heritage, of the federal government unveils anti-racism plan, including the definition of Islamophobia, fulfilling one of the key recommendations from a parliamentary committee study that came out of M-103.
- July 22, 2021, following yet another terror attack in London ON that claimed the lives of a Canadian family of Muslim faith, the federal government held a summit on Islamophobia concluding with a series of commitments that governments have entitled themselves to.
- January 29, 2022, the Honourable minister Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion, highlighted the federal government’s intention to appoint a special representative on combatting Islamophobia. This appointment will be part of a renewed Government of Canada Anti-Racism Strategy.
- June 6, 2022 The Government of Canada calls for applications to fill the new position of Special Representative on Combatting
Different forms and shapes of Islamphobia that Canadian Muslims and Canada as a whole have been witnessing for so long;
– Hate speech: There is a clear difference between freedom of speech and hate speech. Hate speech leads to hate, and freedom of speech leads to an enrichment of democracy. Any speech that leads to violence and bigotry should not be confused for freedom of speech in any way.
– Social media platforms: while respecting liberty of speech, there is a need for solid legislations & directives to assert that social media platforms are not turned into feeding podiums for hate speech, racism and prejudice. Those who preach hate should be identified and brought to justice.
– Extreme supremacy-based ideologies that lead to violence should be addressed as they are the creeds adopted by the perpetrators of the violent Islamophobic terror assaults and aggressions.
– Laws and rules, although at the provincial levels, have implications that hit Canadian citizens hard. As evidence, Bill 21, one of its clear implications is targeting Canadian young women and men because of their choice of dress and beliefs. One survey after the other proves that the implications of Bill 21 have deepened the xenophobic and Islamophobic wounds for so many segments of the society. The unfortunate fact that the implications of law 21 invite hate and discrimination against Canadian Muslims and other communities mainly in Quebec, young women being the main victims of the law.
– Addressing openly what media reports have called a “toxic Islamophobic” environment within some of the federal agencies. This sort of atmosphere has its very severe influence on even the process of decision-making in courts, refugee claimants, and the targeting of Canadian citizens and residents based on their religious and ethnic backgrounds.
– Hidden racism is one of the most complicated challenges that need a special approach from the authorities to be able to be tackled and addressed. Hidden racism is mainly demonstrated in job market hiring, career opportunities and the occupying of higher posts. It’s also manifested in what is considered as a double standard when it comes to Canadian Muslims in particular
– Security and safety of Muslim Canadians: one of most dangerous aspects of Islamophobia is the violence and terror directed at Muslim citizens and their institutions across the country. As Canada have witnessed a spike in such incidents, it’s becoming much more urgent for an action-inclusive plan to address such a very alarming phenomena before it gets out of control and claims more innocent Canadian lives.
Creating concrete infrastructure to address Islamophobia has witnessed tangible moves within the last few years, starting by the adoption of Petition e-411 that led to both the condemnation of Islamophobia twice at the House, and consequently to private motion, M103, and its recommendations. Furthermore, came the outlining of the definition of Islamophobia by the federal ministry of Heritage, and the designation of January 29 as the day of action against Islamophobia. And lately the federal government call to fill the new position of Special Representative on Combatting Islamophobia.
One of the positive narratives in facing Islamophobia could be by clearly recognizing the contribution of Canadian Muslims in the society at large and at all social, economic and political levels.
Moreover, Women are the most visible victims of the Islamophobia ideology and the extreme populist elements in society. Opening opportunities to Canadian Muslim women in key positions is another component that sends a clear message that all Canadians are equal and all can join the efforts in making Canada a multicultural country.
Definitely, sincere political will, clear regulations, policies and rules, and cooperation with civic societies and communities can bring us all as Canadians closer to diminishing the impact of hate, racism, and bigotry in Canada.
Standing up against Islamophobia would not have been possible without the efforts and contributions of the community, nonprofit organizations, and activists that are resilient in their refusal to be second class citizens and rejection to be victims of prejudice and bigotry. This would not have been possible without political leaderships that have decided to take steps to face hate. And surely, this would have been very difficult to achieve without the support of Canadians across the country.
Speaking about Islamophobia in no way means it is the only hate form that we face in Canada; anti-Semitism, racial profiling, anti-Asian sentiment, bashing of races, and discrimination against indigenous people are issues that we all, as Canadians, and as humans should work for hand in hand to stand up against.
Samer Majzoub, president.
Canadian Muslim Forum(FMC-CMF)
*Initiator of petition e-411, recognition and condemnation of all forms of Islamohpobia in Canada.