Today is Canada Day and for many Canadians this national holiday represents an opportunity to finally come together with friends and family as Covid-19 restrictions are eased on social gatherings. But for some, this Canada Day looms heavier than most.
Early last month, a violent, targeted attack shocked Muslim communities across the country. A family in London, Ontario were victims of an apparent hate crime that killed the parents, grandmother and sibling of a 9-year-old boy who was left fighting for his life. I read article after article about the Afzals, a Canadian-Pakistani family that looks a lot like mine, murdered for simply taking an evening stroll in their neighborhood wearing traditional garb. My thoughts turned to the rest of the Muslim community and the growing fear and unrest we have been feeling for years.
For many Muslim immigrants, Canada has represented a beacon of safety. But in recent years some have begun to question that belief, and wonder aloud if their children will be able to practice their religion openly without fear.
While the outpouring of support from politicians across party lines, including the prime minister, was heartening to see, I wonder what specific steps the government will take to protect Muslim families like mine. The London attack is only one in a long and growing list of anti-Muslim hate crimes across Canada and words of condemnation without concrete action do little to quell fears.
In a report this year to the UN Human Rights Council, a UN expert concluded that, globally, anti-Muslim hatred has reached “epidemic proportions” with Muslims often targeted based on visible characteristics such as “names, skin colour and clothing.” Urging states to act, he said it was “essential to identify and evaluate how State structures perpetuate and legitimize Islamophobia and actively discriminate against Muslim individuals and communities.”
Heeding calls made by the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be convening a National Action Summit on Islamophobia later this month. This summit will provide a critical opportunity to adopt concrete measures backed by resources at the federal and provincial levels to address anti-Muslim hate crimes. Importantly, the summit will also provide a platform for the Muslim community to air grievances and be part of the conversation on ending the discrimination and violence they face.
Taking meaningful and concrete steps to prevent tragedies like the one in London from happening again would be something worth celebrating this Canada Day.