Have You Heard? Canadian Lawmakers Pass Anti-Islamophobia Law

Unanimous passing for motion condemning Islamophobia.

By: Ashley Aalto, Staff Writer

On October 26th, the Canadian government passed legislation that condemns acts of Islamophobia. The motion was passed as a result of an online petition sponsored by Liberal MP Frank Baylis that has gained over 70,000 signatures.

This petition was a result of the increase of police-reported hate crimes in recent years. Statistics Canada revealed that there was a total of 99 police-reported hate crimes that were religiously motivated in the year 2014, which is approximately double the number of these crimes reported in 2012. So far in 2016, there have been 55 Islamophobic reported hate crimes according to the National Council of Canadian Muslims. The most religious hate crimes took place in October, with the majority being in the week after the law was passed. These hate crimes included the burning of a Qur’an, protesting Islam, and smashing windows at a Canadian mosque. Samia, member of the Multicultural Centre at Lakehead University tells The Argus about her experience with Islamophobia. She defines the word as “a means to have prejudice against Islam and Muslims, including the people who participate in Islam, and as Muslims we know that it is our duty to protect our religion. When we see hate crimes going on all around Canada, we understand that each Muslim is affected by it. Even non-Muslims who are friends with Muslims are affected. If a hate crime happens in, say, Winnipeg, we in Thunder Bay will be affected. This is because in Islam, we are all brothers and sisters, so that’s my sister getting hated on for wearing the hijab. Here I know that another Muslim who also wears the hijab will also be affected and it hurts me.

This was not the first time this motion has entered the House of Commons. On October 6, when Tom Mulcair initially introduced the motion to the House, it was denied as a result of Conservative members voting against it. “I can’t see how anybody can speak out against a motion that seeks to condemn a form of hatred,” said Mulcair shortly after. The second time the motion was brought to the House by Mulcair, it was unanimously voted in favour of.

The media has a huge impact on how people interpret a story. A lot of the news coverage regarding Muslims has been about acts of terrorism, war-torn countries, or stories of hate crimes. This can influence people to act unfavourably towards the Muslim community as people only see this negative representation of Muslims. Samia said, “When I used to volunteer at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, I would walk from Lakehead to the hospital. When I would walk through the hospital parking lot, I would receive a lot of hateful glares. One time, I heard someone say the words ‘terrorist’ and ‘country’ as I was walking by them. Though I did not hear the whole sentence, I understood what they meant. I didn’t have the courage to turn around and say something that day, so I just kept walking. It’s something that affected me at that time, but when I feel this way, I keep in mind that I am not the only one feeling these things. It also makes me much stronger and pushed me to educate people that not all Muslims are like that and our religion isn’t like that. It’s what the media shows that gives people a different impression.

With that being said, many rely on the media they consume when it comes to their world perceptions, which is why the way the media presents current issues is so important. There has been a lot of coverage by mainstream media of the motion that failed to pass on October 6, but hardly any coverage on the same motion being passed just weeks later. Without media coverage, many Canadians may not know that this law has passed and therefore, this law may have little effect. The other question that this issue brings forth is that of mainstream media: is it displaying Islamophobia by not reporting on a new law condemning acts of Islamophobia? Many Muslim Canadians feel disappointed that there was not a significant amount of attention placed on the motion being passed, and that it gives a misrepresentation of Canada’s acceptance of the Muslim community.

Racist hate crimes have been on the rise in recent weeks in our neighbouring country with the new President-elect Donald Trump, but this new law can give a glimmer of hope to people who identify with being a minority. It shows that most Canadians still care deeply about the safety and respect of others, no matter their status. This positive news should be shared so people can rejoice, and those perpetrating the crimes may think twice before doing so. This law is significant in Canadian history and media should be thrilled to share it, not hide it away.

 

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