The early findings of a Senate committee studying the issue suggest that Islamophobia and violence against Muslims are widespread and deeply entrenched in Canadian society.
The Human Rights Commission found that hijab-wearing Muslim women — especially black Muslim women — are the most vulnerable and that fighting Islamophobia in various public spheres is difficult.
“Canada has a problem,” committee chair Senator Salma Ataullahjan said in a telephone interview with The Canadian Press.
“We hear about intergenerational trauma because young children are witnessing it. Muslims are speaking out because there have been so many attacks and they have been very violent.”
Ataullahjan said the problem is bigger than current statistics suggest.
The commission found that many Muslims across Canada have been concerned about being targeted, especially if they have experienced Islamophobic attacks, witnessed or lost loved ones to violence.
“Some of these women were afraid to leave their homes, it was difficult for them to take their children to school. Many were spat on,” Ataullahjan said. “Muslims must always look over their shoulders.”
Last month, Statistics Canada released figures showing a 71 per cent increase in police-reported hate crimes against Muslims from 2020 to 2021. According to census data, the crime rate is 8 crimes per 100,000 Muslim population.
The work of the Senate committee began in June 2021, shortly after four members of a Muslim family were killed when they were run over by a pickup truck while out for a walk in London, Ontario. A man is facing terror-related murder charges over his death.
The committee’s senators, analysts, translators and other staff traveled to Vancouver, Edmonton, Quebec and throughout the Greater Toronto Area to speak with Canadians attending mosques, Muslims who were victims of attacks, teachers, doctors and security officials, among others. chat.
The results of those conversations are now being compiled in a report, which the committee began drafting this week, Ataullahjan said.
The final version of the report – due to be released in July – is expected to include recommendations on how to combat Islamophobia and how the government can better support victims of attacks, she said.
Among the commission’s findings, Ataullahjan said, was an observation that attacks against Muslims appeared to occur more often on the streets and appeared to be more violent than attacks against other religious groups.
Analysts and experts interviewed by the Senate committee said the rise of far-right hate groups and anti-Muslim groups was one of the factors driving the attacks against Muslims, Ataullahjan said.
The commission looked at cases of violence against black Muslim women in Edmonton in recent years.
“Some of them sat in front of us and everyone had tears in their eyes because it’s not easy to tell your story, especially where you hurt,” she said.
The 2017 shooting at a Quebec mosque, in which a gunman killed six worshipers and wounded several others, was another example of violent Islamophobia, she said.
The Senate committee’s report will also address recent acts of violence against Muslims, including an alleged attack outside a mosque in Markham, Ontario, where witnesses told police a man tore up a Koran, yelled racial slurs and tried to throw The car crashed into the congregation.
Ataullahjan said the commission will also detail everyday attacks on Muslim Canadians, including the reluctance of hijab-wearing girls in schools to report Islamophobia to police.
The Muslim National Council of Canada said the preliminary findings are consistent with what it has been observing and trying to inform government leaders for years.
“We are pleased to do so,” said spokesman Steven Zhou. “This is something that everyone, everywhere, needs to learn. It’s a worsening problem.”
Zhou said the committee receives daily calls from Muslims across Canada detailing the situation of Islamophobia and emphasizing the need for action.
“People don’t like to report these things,” he said. “They’re really going to spend a lot of time going to court or talking to police who may not fully understand what they’ve been through.”
Zhou said he hoped the committee would come up with recommendations similar to those already made by the committee, including changes to hate crime legislation, policies to prevent hate groups from congregating near places of worship, and legislation to address online hate.
The Muslim National Council of Canada also hopes the report will help Canadians become familiar with the Muslim community.
“We want to address hate,” he said. “But it’s also about building bridges. Getting people to know about Islam, and getting people to understand what the religion really is and how communities work.”
—Fakiha Baig, Canadian Press