NCCM Federal Advocacy Day, Calling for a National Action Plan to Combat Hate and Islamophobia
On the first anniversary of a day that shook Muslims in Canada and beyond, dozens of Muslim community leaders convened in the nation’s capital to make their voices heard.
The tragedy that befell #OurLondonFamily on June 6th, 2021 changed the way many Muslims think about their place in Canada. A visibly Muslim family being cut down in an Islamophobic attack during something as banal as an evening walk seemed unthinkable before that day.
And yet it happened, further confirming the bitter reality that anti-Muslim hate exists as an existential threat for some in Canada. The rest of our community, already shaken by previous Islamophobia related incidents and fatalities, became ever more ready to hold our elected leaders accountable for real change.
So it only made sense for NCCM to hold its Advocacy Day — a cornerstone piece of our public policy work — exactly a year after what transpired in London, Ontario. And this year, we convened our largest group of delegates ever: imams, community advocates, humanitarian leaders, heads of women’s organizations, student leaders, and so on. Our communities did not disappoint. They showed up ready and prepared while flying in from all over Canada, from British Columbia to Newfoundland.
We met with over 50 lawmakers, including MPs and Ministers, as well as others on Parliament Hill, with a clear list of advocacy asks that come from our list of national recommendations. But it was the unique and singular voices of our delegates that vividly fleshed out the importance of our proposals by telling their incredible and inspiring stories.
Some have had to overcome the frustrating and damaging problem of not being taken seriously by local police after Islamophobic incidents. Others have had to put up with continuous threats.
Our delegate from Newfoundland, for instance, shared the hate mail his mosque has been getting continuously with both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Safety. In a powerful moment, the delegate disclosed just one example of the hateful messaging spewed towards his community: “The only good Muslim is a dead Muslim.” Such examples helped reinforce why NCCM and all our communities have asked for commitments from all parties on policies that challenge Islamophobia, racism, and hate.
These recommendations were sourced from communities across the country in the lead up to last year’s National Action Summit on Islamophobia. Our asks, which were pushed by over 100 delegates from communities across the country, focused on everything from hate crimes laws, to helping survivors of hate crimes, to beefing up community infrastructure, to dismantling white supremacy, and more.
A Win in the Morning
Our morning included a major win for our community as MP Salma Zahid announced proposed legislation to hold our national security and spy agencies accountable.
Ms. Zahid tabled a bill that puts real consequences on security officials and federal lawyers who lie in court. These authorities have a Duty of Candour to the Canadian judiciary, our elected officials, and all Canadians. Yet our spy agency, CSIS, has been called out for violating this duty by misleading the courts and behaving as if it is above such rules. This has caused serious and long-term damage to marginalized communities that have had to deal with such national security personnel over the years.
Ms. Zahid, with whom we also met for a closed meeting during the day (as well as in London, Ont. the day before), has bravely taken the first concrete step towards implementing accountability in a crucial segment of our national security regime.
Her legislation should be championed not just by her party but by all parties that believe in protecting civil liberties and human rights in the pursuit of security. This should not be a partisan issue. It is a matter of standing up for the right of all Canadians to know the truth about their national security agencies.
An Ask Fulfilled
Community advocates stressing the need for government to play a bigger role in combating Islamophobia had been long requested a dedicated office for the Special Representative on Combatting Islamophobia.
Ottawa agreed to this commitment this January as part of a renewed effort to combat all forms of hatred and racism in the country. It was therefore a great encouragement to see this Monday morning that the hiring process for the Special Representative position had opened, as announced on Parliament Hill by Minister Ahmed Hussen, Minister Omar Alghabra, and MP Iqra Khalid.
In a nutshell, the Special Representative will work with various Canadian institutions to support Canada’s efforts to confront and combat Islamophobia, systemic racism, and related forms of hate. The Representative will also advise the government on the protection of human rights and advocating for inclusive public policy and diversity.
It was a day of renewed advocacy and real commitments. But the work is ongoing. That means following up on every item in order to make sure that real, fair, inclusive, and effective implementation takes place.
We want to thank everyone for showing up on a difficult day by turning remembrance into action.
Now is the time for change, for action, for unity.
Steven Zhou is a journalist and a writer for the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM)