Good afternoon, Madam Chair, members of Parliament, ladies and gentlemen.
I'd like to talk about the issues facing us in the context of what is happening today and yesterday with regard to a Canadian city and a Canadian victim of terrorism and Islamophobia.
Yesterday at the United Nations, a Canadian refugee, Ensaf Haidar, whose husband has been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia on charges of Islamophobia and punished with 10 years in prison and a thousand lashes, spoke out at the UNHCR. The Times of London, of course, deemed it fit to publish this story. The Canadian newspapers obviously thought it would be Islamophobic to print anything about a victim who has been accused and jailed for being Islamophobic.
The other issue is the ongoing Montreal trial of two young jihadi terrorists, and perhaps if I were one of the neighbours, I would feel quite uneasy about people saying that Islamophobia is groundless and is merely an irrational reaction to cater to the racist inner self of essentially most mainstream white Canadians.
Listening to Iqra Khalid on Monday, I couldn't help but note that there were two words around which the discussion was centred and around which the Islamist agenda will be pursued in Canada. One was the word “expert”. Invoking the word “expert” comes straight from the Islamist hymn book of the last century, dominated by such jihadis as Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna, Sayyid Qutb of Egypt, and Syed Maududi of the Jamaat-e-Islami in India and later in Pakistan. These three gentlemen are the Marx, Lenin, and Trotsky of Islamofascism. Their followers are embedded in almost every urban university and school in North America, and were listed as fronts for the Muslim Brotherhood by the FBI in the Texas terror trial a few years ago.
These orthodox jihadi fanatics claim that only experts—not historians, academics, authors, and certainly not women—could understand the religion of Islam or express an opinion on a controversial matter. Thus it is such experts who defend polygamy, FGM, child marriage, taking sex slaves, and praising armed jihad.
However, the crucial issue in front of you, or in front of Canadians—the essential problem in the room, as they say—is the word “Islamophobia”. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as “Intense dislike or fear of Islam, esp. as a political force; hostility or prejudice towards Muslims.” Then there is the definition by Andrew Cummins, who once said, in a quote that is often misattributed to Christopher Hitchens, that Islamophobia is “a word created by fascists, and used by cowards, to manipulate morons”. MP Iqra Khalid defines it as “an irrational fear or hatred of Muslims or Islam”.
Being a Muslim, I would say that they may all be correct, given certain circumstances, but in the western world, no one—not Oxford, not Mr. Hitchens, and not other critics or defenders—has ever talked about the connotation of the meaning of Islamophobia. This is not the meaning; this is the connotation. Muslims who have formed an organization called, quote-unquote, “Muslims Against M103” believe that Canadian MPs are, if you'll pardon the expression, getting the wool pulled over their eyes. For example, in the Indian subcontinent, where close to half the world's Muslims live, and that's home to many Islamists who tried and failed to introduce sharia law in Ontario's family law system in 2005, the word “Islamophobia” is roughly translated as Islam dushmani, or being enemies of Islam. This is as opposed to Islam pasand, or being friends of Islam. Unless you place these two one against the other, you won't understand what is actually the connotation behind the explosive use of this word “Islamophobia”.
We saw this unfold in Darfur, where black Muslims, half a million, were killed. When more than one million dark-skinned fellow Muslims were killed, the argument presented in 1971 by the Pakistanis or Bangladeshis was that the Bangla Muslims were Islam dushmani and Islamophobes, while the Pakistani Muslims were Islam pasand, or lovers of Islam.
We have seen this unfold in Darfur with the Janjaweed and in Syria with the oppressive dictatorship of Assad that was declared as an anti-Islamic by the dictators of Saudi Arabia who were considered friends of Islam. Half a million have died so far in the jihad against Islamophobes by Saudis and Qatari friends of Islam. We Muslims who oppose Islamists feel the label “Islamophobia” has been introduced to target us under the M-103 process. The primary purpose is to drown out our voices when we denounce polygamy, female genital mutilation, child marriage, honour killings, armed jihad, racial discrimination which is pervasive wherever Islamophobia is banned, and above all, the burqa, which has nothing to do with Islam but is one straightforward smack in the face of anything that feminists have struggled over for the last 200 years.
We who fled the Islamic world to escape the tyranny of falsely being called Islamophobes and make Canada home now find that enemies have hunted us down, as gullible and well-meaning non-Muslim MPs I would say get the wool pulled over their eyes.
The sad irony of the Islamists' claim of Islamophobia is they and other Muslims who mock Christians and Jews daily. When we read the opening words of the Quran that is the Surah Al-Fatiha five times a day, a minimum of 20 times a day, anyone who prays is mocking Christians and Jews. The same people are coming around to say that there is a lot of Islamophobia in Canada. Surah Al-Fatiha is the Muslim equivalent to the Lord's Prayer in Christianity, where we ask Allah to put us on the right path, not on the path of those who have incurred your wrath, the Jews, or those who have gone astray, the Christians.
If anyone is interested, I have two translations of the Quran with me, where I can produce it, because you will ask this question to the experts who will come here, who will deny flatly to your face that it exists. But it does. This is done every day, five times a day, in 500 mosques around this country. For the Hindus and the Sikhs and the atheists, if they think they got away and they are not cursed, every Friday congregation starts with a prayer that says “Oh, Allah, give victory to Muslims over the 'Qawm al-Kafirun'”, which is the Kufr, which is all of you.
My question for you, ladies and gentlemen, is this. Will the heritage committee declare that any religious prayer asking for Muslim victory over other religions is hateful and thus criminal? If Islamophobia is ever declared a criminal offence in Canada, all of you will have done the tremendous disservice to the 400-year heritage of our country, that of western civilization, which is rooted in the sacrifice back in the 16th century of Martin Luther who stood up against the papacy and its indulgences and ended up excommunicated. If you recognize the role of Martin Luther and the Reformation and the Age of Enlightenment, then how on earth could you take away the right of Muslims to stand up to their own popes who masquerade as experts?
I hope you do realize if you include the words “denounce Islamophobia” in your final proposals, you will infringe on the inalienable right of a Muslim Canadian to critique our religion, which has been a rich tradition that has been stifled by mullahs, kings, and caliphs, by so far, murdering us, beheading us, and by invoking the laws to punish Islamophobia according to sharia-sanctioned beheadings as in the case of the Canadian woman who spoke yesterday at a United—
Distinguished members of the committee, my introduction will be mainly in French for the sake of functioning a little bit faster. As you can see, I have a sexy French accent. It will probably be a little faster this way.
I would like to take this opportunity today to talk specifically about one aspect of the topic under consideration: the rise of the right in Canada and the social damage it could cause to our society.
I acknowledge first of all that racism is not limited to one category of individuals. It has existed from time immemorial and the constant attention of civil society is needed to keep it in check. It has been present in nearly all cultures since the beginning of time. I condemn all forms of extremism, whether on the right, on the left, religious or ideological.
My comments today, however, will focus on the rise of the right which, to my mind and for very objective reasons, represents a greater threat than radical Islam, even though that threat has unfortunately already killed people and will continue to do so for some time.
The rise of the right is a greater threat because it creeps into the thoughts of our fellow citizens so much so that it distorts reality and eventually, over time, withstands dispassionate and measured debate. If left unchecked, this movement will take root so firmly that it will certainly take decades of constant efforts to stamp it out and return to a social climate that provides a safe environment for everyone. I would go even further: the rise of the right has already created victims and we are not far from seeing a form of domestic terrorism that is even worse than the one threatening us currently.
My research and professional experience have shown me that the extreme right, or the alternative right, as some people call it, is not uniform across Canada. There is a wide range of political actions and discourse across the country. I do not have the time to get into all the details, but let me say in general that the discourse of the English-speaking extreme right in western Canada is much closer to that of neo-Nazis and so-called conventional white supremacists than what we see in Quebec among the identity-based right. This can be attributed in part to language, since anglophones have much more contact with American neo-Nazi groups, and to the historical and cultural development of the groups in question.
In the 1990s, when I was still with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, my group and I were tasked with analyzing extreme right threats in Canada. We observed, among other things, the rise of the right in Europe. Specialized studies pointed to insecurity as a crucial factor contributing to the rise of the radical right. Insecurity is also a very important factor in my presentation. If not properly addressed by civilian leaders, this insecurity gives ardent supporters of the right a way to tap into all levels of society, especially the most vulnerable. In fact, the most vulnerable individuals are often people who feel insecure. The discourse of the right is often demagogic and riddled with lies that stir up insecurity and fear. The rise of populist discourse and the era of fake news and “alternative facts” have contributed a great deal to that insecurity taking root.
This is decisive for the future. The issue is identifying the predominant discourse that is accepted by the public. Right now, the picture is very sad. Since the alt-right discourse has not been neutralized by counter-discourse from our political leaders, it has taken root and become dangerous, precisely because some people now consider it socially tolerable if not acceptable. This becomes particularly dangerous when the insidious discourse that it conveys relies on fear-based arguments to make people believe that there is a legitimate purpose, namely, to protect their interests. That is the mask that the right cheerfully uses, despite there being no factual basis.
I deplore the current lack of leadership and concrete measures by our political leaders, from all parties and orders of government, to offer a counter-discourse to the allegations and outright lies perpetuated by agitators on the right.
While respecting the right to free speech, perhaps it is time to examine the degree of acceptability of the aberrations of certain opinion leaders or agitators. Canada's great tolerance has perhaps become our Achilles heel. We can count on the fingers of one hand the measures that prosecutors have taken to enforce the law when extremists have used extreme language. That extreme language is repeated in all kinds of public platforms, by political leaders or groups who, in a rather opportunistic way, use the situation to try to win a few votes and do not hesitate to provoke insecurity and indignation among certain citizens.
I will conclude by talking about the presence of these insidious messages in the public sphere. It has apparently become an simple way to express views, whether through social media or the more conventional media. I am talking about agitators of all kinds who, in the name of criticism and the right to spread their opinion, feed into discourse that fuels insecurity. It is especially deplorable and troubling that we are still dealing with this phenomenon, which is growing in the public sphere.
This phenomenon must be broadly denounced by companies, professional monitoring and accreditation associations, as well as members of the public and anyone on the Internet. We must also hold to account those who have more direct access to the public. It is generalized inaction that could have serious consequences right across the country. In spite of the denouncements, vicious, hateful and even false messages keep being repeated, and the public ends up believing them. Consider for example that the police now estimate that, in Quebec alone, there are between 50,000 and 55,000 people who belong to or support the identity-based right. There are more than 15 known groups that publicly assert that they are part of the identity-based right. One of these groups, which wants to acquire weapons and do military training, was recently denounced when it was reported on in the media. What objective do these people have? That is the question.
The day after the killings in Quebec City on January 29, 2017, the director of the Centre for the Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence clearly stated in an interview on the TVA network that their offices in Montreal had received over 600 calls in the previous nine months, that 20% of them were from the greater Quebec City area, and that they were almost all related to problems involving the extreme right.
Do we need more statistics or another killing before we take action?
In short, our society has far too many years been troubled by various major issues. Finding scapegoats is convenient and almost instinctive when there is widespread insecurity. History has taught us lessons about the danger of the rise of all forms of extremism. Let us review these lessons because history has unfortunately started to repeat itself and time is starting to run out.
It is insecurity. As I touched on in my presentation, the element of insecurity is probably at the crux of the analysis.
For many years, Canada has welcomed immigrants. Canada has been very generous in welcoming many people. Unfortunately, certain critics of the role of immigrants and the impact of immigrants on Canadian society were not appropriate. Over time, this filled the public with resentment and made them unhappy.
After the events of September 11, 2001, fear became widespread and the media hammered away at a certain community, and I stress the words “a certain community”. Let us look at the facts.
If I asked you how many attacks or explosions radical Islam has perpetrated in Canada since September 11, 2001, the answer would be zero. If I rephrased the question, however, and asked how many explosions or bombings extremists have perpetrated since September 11, 2001, the answer would be more than thirty. In fact, four of those acts were in Quebec, one in Ontario, and the rest in Alberta or British Columbia. These acts were all committed by politically motivated extremists, whether they are anti-establishment, anti-G7, anti-G20, anti-Parti Québécois, anti-American or radical environmentalists.
Why are we not talking about radical environmentalists? Unfortunately, exaggerated media coverage has distorted reality to some extent, which the identity-based right capitalizes on in the way it does things.
Thank you, Madam Chair, for inviting me to speak today.
I'd like to begin by acknowledging that we're on the traditional territory of the Algonquins of Ontario and by recognizing the long history of first nations, Métis, and Inuit people in Canada.
Every day, people tell me about their experiences of discrimination. For them the existence of racism isn't an idea to be debated; it's a lived reality. In our recent consultation on racial profiling in Ontario, one black man said, “Out shopping, I am the probable shoplifter. Taking a walk, I am the probable wife snatcher or burglar.”
Over 50 years ago, the government created the Ontario Human Rights Commission to address anti-black racism and anti-Semitism, and unfortunately we're still in business today and still uncovering forms of discrimination that have been hidden from public scrutiny for too long.
Up until recently, many Canadians, including me, knew very little about the history of colonialism and the ongoing impact of intergenerational trauma on indigenous people and families. For example, one woman told us, “I work as a midwife, primarily with aboriginal women, and have lost track of how many racist assumptions and mistreatments I've observed based on race.”
The Ontario Human Rights Commission works to challenge, expose, and ultimately end entrenched and widespread structures and systems of discrimination through education, policy development, public inquiries, and litigation. We have detailed policies on discrimination based on race and creed.
Since 9/11, we've seen a rise in discrimination against Muslim people or people who are perceived to be Muslim. We have heard concern that the term “lslamophobia" is vague or that it could be interpreted to include any criticism of the Muslim faith. In our policy on creed, we defined “lslamophobia” as “racism, stereotypes, prejudice, fear or acts of hostility directed towards individual Muslims or followers of Islam in general”.
We’ve used this definition for many years without controversy. It’s a straightforward definition that is completely in line with other terms we routinely use in human rights law, terms like anti-black racism, anti-Semitism, or transphobia.
There’s growing evidence that discrimination and harassment, and even criminal activity against people who are Muslim, is on the rise. Earlier this year, Statistics Canada reported that the number of police-reported hate crimes against Muslims jumped 60% in one year. Muslim people were the second-most targeted group, after Jewish people.
Beyond individual acts of intolerance, lslamophobia can lead to viewing and treating Muslims as a greater security threat on an institutional, systemic, and societal level. For example, another woman who often works in the Middle East told us, “It usually goes like this: After check-in at the airport, I go to the security area. My carry-on will pass through the security belt, and I will pass through the scanner, both without a hitch. Even so, almost every time, I'll be told, 'You've been randomly selected for additional screenings.' It's only a few extra seconds or minutes, but I've started to feel like replying back, 'It's not random when it's every single time.'”
Stereotypes of Muslims as a threat to security or Canadian values have been particularly pronounced and have contributed to a hybrid of racial and religious profiling.
From the commission's perspective, it is vital for our leaders to recognize the ideological foundations of hate and discrimination, and to name this in a clear fashion. That's why it is important to call out lslamophobia, anti-black racism, anti-Semitism, and anti-indigenous racism.
The adoption of motion M-103 is a good example of the Government of Canada playing a leadership role in terms of both calling out racism and calling for action. This motion is similar to motion M-630, which condemned the rise in anti-Semitism and was unanimously adopted in 2015. There has been a lot of discussion about the potential for motions like M-103 to limit free speech, which is a fundamental freedom under the charter.
M-103 does not limit expression. It does not prohibit any conduct whatsoever. It does not prevent people from saying what they think. It's a starting point for dealing with a problem that can quickly escalate and cause deadly harm like we saw in the shootings at the Quebec City mosque.
Most Canadians accept that the charter protects speech that may be offensive so long as it doesn't rise to the level of a hate crime or constitute harassment under human rights law, but the guarantee of free speech certainly cannot mean that the government's hands are tied in terms of addressing the very real harms caused by racism, whether it is mistrust of public institutions, physical or mental harm to individuals, or long-term damage to a community's collective well-being.
In the face of these harms, the government can and must lead by calling out racism and putting policies and programs in place to send a strong, consistent message that racism and Islamophobia are damaging to individuals, communities, and ultimately to all of us who wish to live in peace and harmony.
We need to send a collective message that while the Constitution protects freedom of expression, it also guarantees equality, regardless of race and religion. The government has the power to take action to protect people who are harmed by racism and Islamophobia, and we call on it to boldly do so.
There is considerable scope for the government to develop positions, policies, and programs that promote inclusion and respect, especially for racial and religious minorities. These types of actions are consistent with the values of Canadians and with the charter. Indeed, the Government of Ontario has recently taken steps to do this by establishing an anti-racism directorate to apply an anti-racism lens in developing, implementing, and evaluating government policies, programs, and services.
Ontario has also introduced legislation that makes it possible to require the collection of human rights-based data in key areas like policing, education, and child welfare. If the government follows through and mandates this collection, data like this will help to identify systemic discrimination that is often hidden, and to chart progress against eradicating it.
We call on the Government of Canada to take similar steps. First, the government must continue to unequivocally call out Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-black racism, and anti-indigenous racism.
Second, it needs to establish and appropriately fund anti-hate and anti-racism initiatives in programs. There are many options for doing this, such as adding an anti-racism stream to the Canadian Heritage grants program, or updating the government's action plan on racism and reporting on progress against it.
Third, the government must take concrete steps to identify and eliminate systemic discrimination, including mandating the collection of human rights-based data across government services. For over 20 years, the government has required federal departments to conduct gender-based impact assessments. Our final recommendation is to require impact analysis based on race.
Just over a year ago while visiting Ottawa, then president Obama proclaimed, “The world needs more Canada.” There is much work to be done before we can rightfully hold ourselves up as this model for other nations to emulate. Let's give the world more of the Canada that we all aspire to, one where everyone's human rights are a lived reality, and let us not be hobbled in our efforts by those who are more concerned with defining racism than ending it.
Good afternoon, Madam Chair, and members. Thank you for the invitation to present today. I'm honoured to be here before the committee to talk about the leadership role Ontario is taking to address systemic racism and advance social inclusion.
My name is Sam Erry, and I'm the associate deputy minister for the inclusion, diversity and anti-racism division in the cabinet office in the Ontario public service. I'm joined on my right by Akwatu Khenti, who is the assistant deputy minister of the anti-racism directorate, and Chris Williams, who is a senior research adviser in our organization. Our division is strategically situated in Ontario's cabinet office to accord it high priority and lend strength to its whole-of-government approach.
Members, we've heard for decades from community partners about the socio-economic disparities that exist for indigenous, black, and racialized people in Ontario. This is all the more important because, by 2031, an estimated 40% of Ontario's population will be racialized.
Ontario is also home to the largest population of indigenous people in the country, and indigenous youth are the province's fastest-growing population.
The available research tells an emotional and compelling story. From child welfare, educational achievement, criminal justice, and corrections through to employment and political representation, the patterns confirm inequity in the distribution of socio-economic benefits. Here are some examples.
A York University study of the Toronto District School Board revealed that black students are twice as likely to be enrolled in applied courses instead of academic ones, compared to students from other racial backgrounds. The same study found that black students are more than twice as likely as white students to have been suspended at least once during high school.
We also see this in the child welfare sector. At least 25% of children in care in Ontario at any given time are indigenous, yet only 3% of Ontario's child population is indigenous.
Systemic racism is often caused by conscious or unconscious biases in policies, practices, and procedures that privilege or disadvantage particular groups of people based on perceptions of race. It's not always intentional, but whether or not it's intentional has little bearing on the inequitable outcomes indigenous and racialized people experience.
We also know that many racialized people are facing racism due to their religion. We've seen horrible incidents of hate and violence that remind us that issues such as Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are real and unacceptable. It goes without saying that there is no place for religious discrimination or any form of systemic racism, not just in Ontario, but across Canada.
Tackling the systemic institutional barriers that prevent indigenous and racialized people from achieving their full potential is not only a moral imperative, it's also an economic imperative.
I want to share with you why anti-racism is the best approach to truly ameliorate the harms of systemic racism. As you know, there are a range of approaches out there, and there are evidence-based reasons for choosing anti-racism.
As Canadians, we are well socialized in the concept of multiculturalism. When we think about diversity, we're celebrating people's individual differences and perspectives. Building a diverse society and focusing on raising awareness about diversity are good and necessary things to do, but they are not sufficient to change the deeply entrenched inequities for indigenous and racialized people, and other groups. The diversity approach has failed to change the power imbalances that result in privilege for some groups and disadvantage for others.
The anti-racism approach acknowledges and addresses the fact that indigenous youth are more likely to end up in the child welfare system or jail, and the fact that many racialized youth, particularly young black men, are more likely than white kids to drop out of high school and empirically less likely to be represented amongst the ranks of our CEOs and senior leaders.
Anti-racism is not diversity. When the Ontario government launched the anti-racism directorate, it was clear that it had to target the root causes that are leading to these inequitable outcomes experienced by indigenous and racialized people.
Anti-racism is a proactive process of change. That means we don't just avoid being racist, we take active steps to transform institutional structures, including public policies, programs, and services, that sustain racial inequity.
Anti-racism starts by acknowledging racism and recognizing that racism creates privilege for members of the dominant group and disadvantages for others as a result of histories of slavery, colonization, and other forms of oppression and hatred. This means we honour the Ontario government's commitment to reconciliation with first nations, Métis, and Inuit people.
For the directorate, it also means we fully acknowledge intersectionality. This is important, because racism is experienced differently by various racialized groups and within groups along intersectional lines, including gender identity, creed, class, sexual orientation, history of colonization, or other personal attributes.
When the anti-racism directorate was launched in February 2016, we were not starting from scratch. Our work builds on decades of research and reports such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's final report, “The Review of the Roots of Youth Violence” report, and the “Stephen Lewis Report on Race Relations in Ontario”. Our work also relies heavily on community collaboration. The community's passion for and commitment to racial justice pushed systemic racism into the spotlight.
The mandate of the anti-racism directorate began by hearing directly from indigenous and racialized people through 10 open public meetings across Ontario, from Windsor to Thunder Bay to Ottawa. The Ontario government followed that up in March 2017 by launching a three-year anti-racism strategic plan, called “A Better Way Forward”, which targets systemic racism by building a foundational anti-racism approach in the way government develops policies, programs, and services.
The directorate is now working across government to ensure that anti-racism is embedded in everything we do, because an evidence-based, whole-of-government approach is a highly effective way to address systemic barriers and advance racial equity. Our strategic plan is our road map and plan for action.
Another important mechanism to ensure Ontario's anti-racism work is sustainable and accountable to the public over the long run is the Anti-Racism Act, which was passed in the legislature on June 1, 2017. The act is unprecedented nationally. It establishes the anti-racism directorate in legislation. It requires the government to maintain an anti-racism strategy and mandates community engagement through multi-year plans.
It requires the development of an anti-racism impact assessment framework, which is a tool to better understand the root causes of systemic barriers and propose solutions to address these barriers. It requires the establishment of race-based data standards and guidelines. We know that data collection is a critical first step, because without data we can't identify the core problem and where the change needs to be made.
We are currently developing a race data standard for the collection, use, analysis, disclosure, and public reporting of this aggregated race-based data across government and its institutions. This framework will ensure that data is collected and used consistently and that there are privacy protections in place to prevent the misuse of personal information.
Through the development process we've been actively engaging our ministry and community partners, as well as the Ontario Human Rights Commission and the Information and Privacy Commissioner, for their feedback and advice.
As you know, there has been a growing tide of anti-Muslim rhetoric and sentiments in a post-9/11 era. A Statistics Canada report released earlier this year showed that from 2014 to 2015 there was a 61% increase in anti-Muslim hate. This is also mirrored in public opinion. A 2017 Angus Reid poll shows that 60% of Canadians agree that Canadian Muslims face a lot of discrimination in their daily lives.
We saw a tragic example of Islamophobia earlier this year when six people were killed and 19 injured during a shooting rampage at the Quebec City Islamic centre.
All roads lead to the conclusion that Islamophobia is a serious and urgent problem. The anti-racism strategic plan includes initiatives to address lslamophobia head-on. One of our strategic imperatives is to work collaboratively with the community and Muslim leaders both to respond to and to prevent further increases in Islamophobia.
We believe that greater public awareness and understanding of Islamophobia will serve to curb current positive trends in this regard. In addition to public awareness, we work with the Ministry of Education and school boards to strengthen and promote educational resources for kindergarten to grade 12 students that aim to address Islamophobia.
The Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services is also working to explore the collection and publication of data from police services on reported Islamophobia.
The Honourable Michael Coteau, the Minister Responsible for Anti-Racism, has acknowledged that Islamophobia is real and has devastating impacts. He also knows how important it is to demonstrate visible, inclusive leadership within the community. Therefore, Minister Coteau has recently established a minister's consultation group on anti-racism, including a subcommittee that focuses exclusively on lslamophobia. The lslamophobia subcommittee provides an important community perspective on supporting and implementing our strategic plan. The group also provides input on the causes and impacts of lslamophobia, and supports public awareness initiatives on the topic.
As I said earlier, we're taking a whole-of-government approach, and this is just some of what's happening across Ontario.
In conclusion, members, through “A Better Way Forward”, Ontario has a focused plan of action to address systemic racism and advance racial equity. I'm pleased to inform you that in August of this year I had the privilege of presenting at the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and the committee acknowledged Ontario's leadership in developing a comprehensive strategic plan and a legislative framework.
Members, these are early days for us, but we continue to collaborate with our committee partners and, through a whole-of-government approach, to effect change in government and its public institutions.