Anti-racism groups say Canadian government must do more to address systemic issues

By The Canadian Press, Xiaoli Li and Faiza Amin

Canadian human rights and anti-racism groups are calling on the federal government to do more to address white supremacy and systemic racism.

Fareed Khan, the founder of Canadians United Against Hate, says the government needs to start by acknowledging that the country and its institutions were built upon Indigenous genocide, slavery and white supremacy.

Alex Ihama, executive director of the Canadian Congress on Inclusive Diversity and Workplace Equity, says he encourages countries to welcome Ukrainians as they flee the “despicable” war instigated by Russia but asks them to give the same support to non-European refugees.

Nur Watad, media director of Canadians for Justice & Peace in the Middle East, says Canada isn’t doing enough to support Palestinians.

Why have we been unable to extend the same support for refugees outside of Europe, including Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq or Palestine?” asked Watad. “Surely we have the capacity to welcome any asylum seekers fleeing conflict and strife, regardless of where they come from.”

But their call was not limited to foreign affairs. Ihama said police’s refusal to use force to disperse trucker protests stood stark in contrast to how Black Lives Matter or Indigenous land defenders have been treated.

“We …. see the force that is used when the Black Lives Matter movement is advancing its cause. They are not asking for free money. They are not asking for free anything. They are simply asking to be recognized as humans. Simply to be recognized as citizens,” said Ilhama.

Khan says he’s not putting faith in politicians to solve the problem – Canadians need to stand up and ask why our government says one thing yet does another.

The speakers made their announcement on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

It comes as a report from Statistics Canada released Friday found hate crimes had increased by 37 per cent.

A day later, an attack at a Mississauga-based mosque in which a man armed with a hatchet and bear spray attacked worshippers was heroically stopped inside the Dar Al-Tawheed Islamic Centre. A 24-year-old man faces several charges, and police are treating the incident as hate-motivated. Another occurred in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

The report stated that Jewish and Muslim communities continue to be the most common targets of religion-based hate crimes.

Hate crimes targeting East or Southeast Asian people went up by over 300 percent, while hate against Indigenous people increased by 152 per cent. Those aimed at the Black community rose by 92 per cent, and South Asian populations saw a 38 per cent increase.

“The need to call attention to hate and racism in Canada is reinforced by the news this weekend of attacks against two mosques,” said Khan.

“We need to be aware of the fact that the vast majority of hate crimes are not reported to police, so that number is, in fact, far higher,” added Khan about the hate crime statistics.

Canadians United Against Hate is calling on the federal government to implement an anti-hate strategy in coordination with provincial governments, Khan said. It would target all forms of hate and racism in society, including on media platforms and systemic racism within institutions.

“Let’s all work together to build the sort of diverse, inclusive and accepting Canada that we all wish for,” he said.

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