Every Ontarian has the right to safely walk down a street, go shopping, enjoy recreational activities, work and worship without fear of harm because of their religion, ethnicity and/or race. This past June, we saw the deadly consequences when this fundamental human right was brazenly violated as four members of a Muslim family were killed and another seriously injured after a driver deliberately ran them down simply because of their religion. Police charged a suspect with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder and described this as a planned, premeditated act, motivated by hate and Islamophobia.
Hatred and discrimination based on creed have no place in our society. Yet we have seen too many tragic reminders that Islamophobia and xenophobia are real, deadly and persist across Ontario. We must unequivocally condemn discrimination and hate based on creed and racism as deplorable and in violation of our society’s core values and beliefs.
Alarmingly, Islamophobia and its tragic consequences are pervasive in communities across Canada. The National Council of Canadian Muslims reports that in the past five years, more Muslims have been killed in targeted hate attacks in Canada than any other G-7 country – because of Islamophobia.
Statistics Canada reports that 2019 saw a marked increase (nine per cent) in police-reported hate crimes in Ontario, and that violent incidents targeting the Muslim population were more likely than other types of hate crimes to involve female victims. From 2010 to 2019, across Canada, almost half (47%) of victims of violent hate crimes targeting the Muslim population were female, compared with one-third (32%) of all hate crime victims.
This past year, the OHRC has repeatedly denounced the escalating hate that is targeting religious and racialized communities. It is essential that we all take steps, and take them quickly, to stand in solidarity, as individuals and through our organizations, to call out Islamophobia and racism and reject the hatred and the violence it begets.
These steps must go beyond simply talking about the problem, but expressly recognizing that Islamophobia exists in all social and political spheres. We need governments and organizations across the country to come up with concrete actions to send the strong message that there is no place in Canada for Islamophobia or any other kind of hate based on religion or race.
An important place to start is to review our hate laws to ensure people experiencing religious-based hate know that they can seek, and will receive, legal protection. In addition to strengthening hate laws, efforts to combat religious hate should acknowledge that during times of social tension, places of worship, like mosques, may need proactive support and additional safeguards to protect against hate attacks.
Tomorrow’s National Summit on Islamophobia offers a critical opportunity to build on this message, and back it up with meaningful action so Muslim families and communities can be safe, supported and respected across Canada.