(Toronto) Islamophobia and violence against Muslims are widespread and deeply rooted in Canadian society, according to initial findings from a Senate committee set up to study the issue.
Muslim women who wear the hijab — black Muslim women in particular — are the most vulnerable, and confronting Islamophobia in various public spheres is difficult, the Human Rights Commission has found.
“Canada has a problem,” committee chair Senator Salma Ataullahjan said in a phone interview with La Presse Canadienne.
“We hear about intergenerational trauma because young children witness it. Muslims are speaking out because there are so many attacks and they are so violent,” she added.
The problem is more serious than current statistics suggest, according to Ataullahjan.
“Some of these women were afraid to leave their homes and it was difficult for them to take their children to school. Many got spat on, the senator said. Muslims must constantly look over their shoulder. »
Last month, figures released by Statistics Canada indicated that police-reported hate crimes targeting Muslims increased by 71% between 2020 and 2021. The crime rate was eight incidents per 100,000 Muslim population, d ‘after the census figures.
The Senate committee’s work began in June 2022, shortly after four members of a Muslim family were crushed to death by a van while taking an evening stroll in London, Ontario. A man is charged with committing a terrorism-related murder.
Senators, analysts, translators and other committee staff traveled to Vancouver, Edmonton, Quebec and the Greater Toronto Area to speak with Canadians who attend mosques, Muslim victims of teachers, doctors and security officials, among others.
The findings of those interviews are now collated into a report, which the commission began drafting this week, Ataullahjan said.
Among the commission’s findings is an observation that attacks against Muslims often appear to occur in the streets and appear to be more violent than those targeting other religious groups, Ms Ataullahjan said.
Analysts and experts interviewed by the Senate committee said the rise of far-right hate groups and anti-Muslim groups were among the factors behind attacks on Muslims, the senator said.
The commission looked into the cases of black Muslim women in Edmonton who have been violently assaulted in recent years.
“Some of them were sitting in front of us and everyone had tears in their eyes because it’s not easy to tell your story, especially when you’ve been hurt,” Ms. Ataullahjan said.
The 2017 shooting at a Quebec mosque, when a gunman opened fire, killing six worshipers and injuring several others, is another example of violent Islamophobia, she said.
The commission will also detail daily assaults on Canadian Muslims, including accounts of young hijab-wearing girls in schools who do not feel comfortable reporting instances of Islamophobia to police, Ataullahjan said.
The National Council of Canadian Muslims said the early findings match what it has been observing and trying to inform government officials for years.
“We are happy that this is done,” spokesman Steven Zhou said. This is a subject that everyone should consider. It’s a growing problem. »
The council receives daily calls from Muslims across Canada reporting instances of Islamophobia, Zhou said, underscoring the need for action.
Zhou said he expected the commission to make recommendations similar to those the council has already made, including changes to hate crimes legislation, developing policies to prevent groups haters to congregate near places of worship and legislation to combat online hate.
The National Council of Canadian Muslims also hopes the report will help Canadians learn about the Muslim community.
“We want to tackle hate,” he said. But it is also about building bridges. People need to learn about Islam, learn what this religion really is, how the community works. »