I'm Peter Van Loan. I'm not normally the chair of this committee; however, Hedy Fry, the chair, is not here, so as vice-chair, I will be sitting in.
Due to the earlier proceedings in the House, we will be somewhat abbreviated, starting now at four o'clock instead of 3:30. That gives us an hour and a half, so we will go through two 45-minute segments. The witnesses will have 10 minutes, and then we'll go through the rounds of questions.
We'll get right into it. In our first panel we have, from the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, Bruce Clemenger and Julia Beazley.
From the National Congress of Chinese Canadians, we have Frank Huang.
I will start with the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.
Go ahead, please.
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada would like to thank the committee for the opportunity to participate in this study on systemic racism and religious discrimination.
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada is a national association of evangelical Christians, which was established in 1964 to provide a national forum for leaders of churches and institutions for Canada's four million evangelicals and to be a constructive voice for biblical principles and life in society.
Evangelicals are one of the most ethnically diverse religious communities in Canada, and while some of our community members experience the intersection of racism and religious discrimination, our submission to the committee will focus on religious discrimination.
Rarely does a parliamentary committee address issues of religion, and we suggest there should be more opportunity to engage in such conversations. This committee's study is particularly significant for this reason, and because all freedoms thrive when religious freedom thrives and is respected and protected, this study is important.
Canada is a nation of deep religious pluralism and of deep differences. This is a strength and a challenge, so part of the importance of the study is to examine how we foster a society of tolerance and respect, and work together to build a society in which freedom and justice flourish. This study is also critical in light of an increasing anti-religious climate in Canada. This climate includes a devaluing, misunderstanding, and increasing fear of religion and a belief that religion should be privatized and kept out of the public square.
Anti-religious sentiment, misinformation, and misunderstanding lead to marginalization and discrimination. This discrimination is manifest in disturbing attacks and incidents directed at religious communities, such as the horrific attack against Muslims earlier this year, in the rising percentage of hate crimes motivated by hatred of religion, and also in more subtle ways that marginalize and discriminate. Given the rise in hate crimes against the Muslim community, it's appropriate that a special focus be given to the protection of this community.
In Canada evangelicals are less often the target of hate crimes than are other religious groups. This may be in part because evangelicals don't tend to be visibly distinctive. Our faith and our practice do not mandate the wearing of particular religious symbols or clothing, yet evangelicals are more supportive of the wearing of religious symbols and clothing than are most Canadians. We do, however, experience anti-religious sentiment and underlying religious discrimination in response to our beliefs and practices.
I, as an evangelical, know that my beliefs are blasphemy or heresy to some and utter nonsense to others. When others denigrate my beliefs or swear using the name of Jesus, who is my Lord, it hurts, yet I'm also commanded to turn the other cheek, to love my enemies, and to go the extra mile. Love includes rebuke, but only if done with love and not hate.
There is, however, a vulnerability if power and influence are tied to the ability to shame and belittle. Whatever the nature of the marginalization, the discrimination, or the motivations of hatred, how the government responds to this trend and the tone it sets is important.
More detailed comments can be found in our brief. We'd like to spend our remaining time here outlining some of our recommendations. We have four high-level recommendations, each with several sub-recommendations.
Our first recommendation for a whole-of-government approach is to take religious differences seriously. There are a number of ways to do this.
Study systemic racism and religious discrimination independently, and study their intersectionality. Race, religion, and culture are distinct, and yet they overlap. It is important to understand them discretely as well as how they intersect.
The government should make a sustained and transparent commitment to freedom of religion and to upholding it specifically rather than letting it be subsumed under the more general category of human rights.
Allow religious groups and religious adherents to hold their beliefs and to practise their faith without marginalization or penalty for doing so. This is a charter guarantee, but it is fleshed out in legislation, regulations, and policy. There will be pressure for governments to withhold services or benefits from individuals or organizations who dissent from common beliefs or who are out of step with mainstream attitudes. The government's task is to ensure that all are treated fairly and equitably. We need to have a robust conversation in Canada about whether government or government agencies should penalize individuals or institutions for beliefs or practices that are otherwise legal. Examples would include the ongoing debate over accreditation of Trinity Western's law school and over the wearing of the niqab in Quebec.
We shouldn't minimize differences of religious belief, because significant differences do exist. When we work together as multi-faith groups on issues of common concern, we each approach the initiative out of our own religious perspective. We find consensus for collaborative action drawn from the resources of our respective faiths. Tolerance and respect, for example, for evangelicals are not secular values. They are principles taught by our faith. This is true of other faiths as well.
Allow faith groups to bring their perspective to bear in public debate. This is an important part of what it means to be a free and democratic society. Government should not compel or coerce Canadians to act against their beliefs or to celebrate beliefs that are counter to their faith. We recommend that robust conscience protection be legislated so that no one is forced to act against their conscience or deeply held beliefs.
Pursue legislation that protects religious belief and practice. One example of legislation that provides this kind of protection is section 176 of the Criminal Code. This section should not be deleted, as Bill proposes, but rather maintained and amended to clearly protect all faith groups.
Second, a whole-of-government approach means engaging with religious groups directly. We encourage you, as parliamentarians, to make an effort to engage with faith communities directly and to listen to their perspective. You will find many points of consensus, and on many issues you will find them to be co-labourers. Consider establishing a forum for dialogue and co-operation to help foster relationships, improve co-operation, and dispel the stereotypes that cause misunderstandings. This might take the form of an annual dialogue between parliamentarians, ministers, and faith leaders, or establishing a multi-faith advisory group or council.
Encourage departments and ministers to seek advice and input on areas that intersect with religious beliefs in Canada from the faith groups who are involved in the policy arena. Recognize the breadth of these overlapping spheres of engagement, for example, caring for seniors, child and youth advocacy, refugee settlement, and caring for those experiencing poverty or homelessness, just to name a few. People who regularly attend religious services tend to be more generous in time and money to charitable causes. Regular worship service attendees are the backbone of charitable service. One task of a multi-faith council could be to advise on a range of issues.
Party leaders and representatives of government must model and promote respect. It is inappropriate to belittle or deride the beliefs of others. They should regularly meet with representatives of faith communities to help foster greater understanding and respect.
Third, a whole-of-government approach protects free and informed dialogue. Parliament should find ways to initiate a sustained conversation on differences and accommodation in a pluralist society. Parliament should affirm a robust commitment to freedom of speech. Deep pluralism can be messy. It challenges each of us, and we need to find ways to foster and model civility.
Don't silence critique. You have already heard significant concerns that the term “Islamophobia” moves beyond the protection of people to preclude critique of the teaching of religious doctrine and ideas. Religious freedom in Canada protects the freedom of individuals and groups to believe and to express those beliefs. It does not protect the beliefs themselves. You have heard of some jurisdictions that use the language of anti-indigenous hate, anti-black hate, and anti-Semitism. We recommend that you use the language of anti-Muslim hatred to address incidents against people of Muslim faith.
Given the use of the term Islamophobia in M-103 and in public discourse, the committee should define it clearly and narrowly, but we do not recommend its use for the whole of government. We reference in our brief some examples of clear and careful definitions of anti-Semitism.
Finally, collect data consistently and uniformly. Develop uniform national standards on collecting, categorizing, and reporting hate crime data to help ensure consistency across the country. This would provide a consistent body of information to inform dialogue and policy-making. Statistics Canada and other government departments should consult with faith communities in developing data collection. Likewise, faith communities need to be more aware of definitions and reporting protocols.
Recognize the benefits and relevance of religion to public life. Study its impact. Do not treat religions as irrelevant to or separable from public life. Collect data on the impact of religion and the social participation of those who are religious.
Honourable Chair and all members of the committee, good afternoon. Thank you so much for inviting me to appear before the committee.
My name is Frank Huang. I'm the national secretary-general of the National Congress of Chinese Canadians. I have been working in ethnic media since I immigrated to Canada in 2001. I used to work with Radio Canada International as a correspondent. I worked with the Global Chinese Press as an editor-in-chief, and I was a founder of New Leaf Media Inc. and the Canada Today Media Group. I'm also a commentator for Fairchild TV, OMNI TV, and Fairchild Radio. In 2005 I was one of the recipients of the Jack Webster Awards. I'm now the principal of D & H College as well as director for the Asian Art Museum of Greater Vancouver.
Thanks to the Canadian multicultural policy, as an immigrant I'm proud of our heritage in Canada. In our new home, we can feel free to speak our mother tongue even before the committee here in the House of Commons.
Next, I would like to speak in Mandarin, as a witness in the committee.
[Witness speaks in Mandarin with Interpretation, as follows:]
Mr. Chair, all members of the committee, today the topic of discussion is systemic racism and religious discrimination. Although Canada is one of the strongest countries in the world in pursuing racial harmony and religious equality, in reality there are many cases of racism and religious discrimination. Some of them are explicit, but more are implicit. I believe one root cause is that people of different religions lack understanding and awareness of other religions, so they have prejudices and biases deep in their hearts. I would like to give a few examples based on my own experience.
First is my own example. Many years ago, when I was studying in Europe, one day I saw a black guy and a white girl kissing in a Paris subway. At that time I felt really uncomfortable. I had always believed in racial equality and I don't think I have any discrimination for any people, but why did I feel so uncomfortable? After some soul searching, I found that actually deep in my heart I had some implicit discrimination against certain races. Maybe I wasn't even aware of that, but I think the reason is that I didn't know much about people of African origin. I never had the opportunity to interact with them. Later on, in my college there were lots of black people, so I had the opportunity to work with them and do projects with them, and I got to know them much better. Now when I see such a situation, I don't feel any discomfort anymore.
The second example is in Vancouver. At D & H College where I work, there is a TESOL certificate course for training English teachers. Last year we trained a batch of Chinese teachers. For their internship we arranged for them to teach basic English to Syrian refugees arriving in Canada. In the beginning, the Chinese teachers and staff at the college had some reservations and hesitations. In the first few days they felt very scared, particularly some of the young female teachers, when facing Muslim adults on their own. However, as the course went on, the Chinese teachers and Syrian refugees quickly got to know more about each other, and some of them even became friends. In the classroom there was no tension anymore, but lots of joy and laughter. Quickly, the Chinese teachers and the Muslim students became a tight group. Even upon graduation, some of them felt that they didn't want to leave each other.
This example told us that in the Chinese community there are indeed some sentiments of terror toward the Muslim community, but this kind of sentiment is due to a lack of understanding. Once they get to know each other, it's gone. So the two sides can actually learn from each other and coexist in harmony.
Of course, in the Chinese community there is indeed implicit discrimination at a deeper level against certain races. Nowadays, with the rapid development of social media, some incorrect and irresponsible information even fuels this kind of discrimination.
My third example was actually from last month. In the Chinese online community, there was sensational news. A social media WeChat account with the name T*T TD Canada Trust posted the following information: “I received at least 20 refugees to open bank accounts today. I just learned that the government gave each of them $800 every month and this family has four adults and six children, that means $8,000 per month and they don't even need to pay tax. So after tax, $8,000 a month means $200,000 per year.” This was posted by somebody who says that he's a TD Bank staff member working in Montreal. This news triggered intense responses in the Chinese community and was re-posted many times. It triggered backlash and outcry against the Chinese government and even the prime minister. These kinds of irresponsible words incite hostile sentiments towards refugees.
Personally, I believe this kind of discrimination is due to a lack of understanding and deep-rooted prejudice. To get over this kind of discrimination, we need to strengthen communication and education.
Therefore, I would like to propose, first, that we resume the ministry of multiculturalism of the federal government. Therefore, the government can take the lead to coordinate and push forward the construction of multiculturalism.
Second, led by the federal government, they should also push for the provincial and municipal governments to check whether there is racism or religious discrimination in their laws and regulations, in which case they should abolish them immediately.
Third, we should have a hotline service to accept the reports and complaints of all nationalities against this racism or religious discrimination.
Fourth, we should have special working groups to pay attention to social media, particularly to irresponsible and misleading comments, in which case we should have in-time correction.
Fifth, there should be more funds allocated to sponsor and encourage communities to have more dialogue and communication among different nationalities.
Finally, we should also have positive education and information sharing among the media, the universities, and the communities so that the national citizens may better understand the importance of multiculturalism to Canada.
That's what I would like to share with you. I thank you for this opportunity to share my understanding with you.
Thank you to all the committee members here.
Thank you very much to both groups for very interesting presentations.
First, I want to be clear as to what we are studying. It's a motion from MP , and I just want to read what the motion actually says:
||That, in the opinion of the House, the government should: (a) recognize the need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear; (b) condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination and—
Further on, the motion states that the government should:
||—develop a whole-of-government approach to reducing or eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination—
Those were the words that were voted on in the House of Commons. The sponsors of this motion have received all sorts of threats in response, pending this motion. They've received insults. They've been intimidated, both in their parliamentary offices and in their home offices in their ridings.
My own riding has received calls saying that this is the thin edge of the wedge to a reduction of freedom of speech and to the bringing in of sharia law. Let me say, as one member of this Liberal caucus, that we would never vote for or endorse anything that reduces freedom of speech.
I'll start my questions with Mr. Clemenger and Julia Beazley.
Where do you think this all originates? Why was there such a negative reaction to the words I've just spoken? The words are clearly innocuous, and yet there was a huge negative reaction. I'll ask both of you, and maybe you can begin, Mr. Clemenger.
In many ways, I think the motion has, and I hate to use the analogy, picked a scab. Again, we're a deeply pluralistic society, so we have deep religious differences and people of faith and no faith. I think part of it is that some Canadians were concerned. Would the government be playing favourites? Would the government be focusing on one faith group rather than others? As I said in our comments, given the significant increases in hate crimes against Muslims, I think it's legitimate to single out Islam or Muslims in the conversation. Again, the motion does extend to others. I think that's part of it.
I think the term “Islamophobia” raised a lot of concerns. As I said in my comments, usually we use the language of anti-black, anti-indigenous, anti-Semitism, yet Islamophobia is different. Many people understand it to be much broader. In Canada, under protection of religious freedom under the charter, the charter protects the beliefs and expression of people, not the beliefs themselves. Therefore, there's a concern that using the term “Islamophobia” would extend the protection beyond what the charter protects and that you're extending a broader range of protection to people of the Muslim faith than to Christians, Sikhs, etc. I think part of it might be that.
Also, I think it goes back to the point underlying our submission. We need to have more conversation about this less. I've been doing this a long time and I don't recall another time that a committee has actually dealt with issues of religious discrimination or even religion. It's very rare. This is the house of the people, so it is a place to have those conversations. Perhaps if it was more regular, then people would not be so surprised or anxious that the issue has surfaced.
It's a very good question. I have brought with me some documents. These are in Chinese, so I will answer in Chinese.
It was actually in October of this year. We know that in social media in the Chinese community, the prominent platform is called WeChat. There was somebody on this platform who claimed to be a TD employee from Montreal. This person uploaded a post saying that this person received at least 20 refugees to open bank accounts, and each of them receive $800 per month, so a family of 10 receives $8,000 per month. That's after tax. It's equivalent to $200,000 per year before taxes. It's definitely middle-class income.
We know that this is misleading and incorrect information. However, because it is on social media, a lot of people don't know what's true and what's not true. A lot of people felt very strongly about this, so they began to repost it to spread the fake posted information, and they began to express their hostile sentiments towards refugees and the Canadian government. It's very hard to regulate social media.
Earlier in my remarks, I suggested that maybe the government should have an agency or team to keep an eye on what's going on in the social media sphere, to detect problems early on and to stop the spread of rumours and lies in the community. That's an effective way to stop this fake information and to disseminate the true facts of the government. These kinds of negative impacts can be minimized. These negative sentiments are based on lies.
I want to thank all of you for coming today.
What I heard today brought to mind some testimony we had heard closer to the beginning about implicit bias and the need to confront our own bias. I believe it was the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers that talked about how you can draft your legislation as you will, but where there's discretion, there's still the opportunity for bias to operate. I believe that you've both touched a bit on that issue.
In my own community, I was talking with some people who have taken an implicit bias assessment test. It's a Harvard test to see how you can check your own biases. I was looking through the Ontario anti-racism strategic plan, and it refers to developing a professional anti-racism tool kit, specifically for detecting racism against indigenous peoples.
Taking into account all of that, what are your thoughts about the importance of developing a tool kit or means by which we can check our biases? As a federal government, is that something you think would be helpful?
I'll put that to both groups.
Thank you, Mr. Chair and respected members of Parliament, for inviting me here today to speak to the committee. I should start by saying that I from the riding that elected the honourable , who proposed Motion M-103 to Parliament. I voted Liberal, and specifically voted for Ms. Khalid.
While I am still aligned with the Liberal Party on most issues and would likely vote the same way again today, I do want to point out some areas of disagreement that I have regarding Motion M-103.
On the evening of January 29 this year, we were shocked by the news of a horrific terrorist attack on the Islamic cultural centre of Quebec City. Six Muslim worshippers were murdered in cold blood, and 19 others were injured. The suspect was a young student, now known to have had anti-Muslim views, who claimed to have been inspired by far right nationalism and leaders like Marine Le Pen. This terrorist attack, as of today, has a higher death count than any of the Islamic terrorist attacks that have ever taken place in Canada. For Motion M-103 to have been passed in the aftermath of the Quebec City attack is understandable, with well-placed intentions.
I am part of a Muslim family, and I grew up in several Muslim-majority countries, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan, before immigrating to Canada in my twenties. Even though I am an atheist, I still get called “jihadist” and “dirty Muslim” online, and I'm frequently told to go back to my country. In the past few years, anti-Muslim sentiment has risen dramatically. Why?
First, people around the world following current events have seen on their TV screens numerous attacks in Paris, Brussels, Nice, Orlando, London, New York, San Bernardino, Ottawa, Edmonton, and more, perpetrated by men yelling, “allahu akbar”, and in most cases, pledging allegiance to the Islamic State, which uses a particularly literal and severe interpretation of Islamic scripture to justify its actions.
Second, many far right, and sadly, even mainstream right politicians around the world have exploited the resulting concerns and fears that many westerners have to drum up anti-Muslim sentiment even more. This has manifested itself in several ways, from the harassment of women who wear the head scarf, or the hijab, to the targeting of Sikhs just because a number of them wear beards and turbans, and at it's deadliest, of course, the attack in Quebec City.
In light of all this, having a motion like M-103 makes sense, but then, why is it so controversial? Why doesn't it have more support from the opposition? This is what I want to talk to you about today. I want to show you how one small tweak to the motion would retain 100% of its meaning and objectives, while also garnering much more support from those critics who are resisting it today.
I just told you about the anti-Muslim hate I have experienced because of my name, my Muslim family, and my country of birth, but there is a flip side. As an atheist, as someone who decided, much like a lapsed Catholic or secular Jew, to align with reason and science and shun supernatural claims and ancient texts like many of the western enlightenment thinkers did, I am an apostate of Islam. For every tweet from a white nationalist telling me, “Go back to where you came from, you dirty terrorist”, I also receive messages from religious people in those countries that I come from, telling me what they will do to me, my wife, and my child in unspeakable terms if I so much as set foot in Pakistan again. Why? Because I left Islam. I am an apostate. Unfortunately, I know that they are serious.
Raif Badawi, a Saudi blogger, is imprisoned in Saudi Arabia, charged with—quote, unquote—“insulting Islam” simply for blogging about separating mosque and state. A string of Bangladeshi secular bloggers have been hacked to death in broad daylight. Asia Bibi, a Christian woman, is sitting in jail in Pakistan for committing blasphemy against Islam. Mashal Khan was beaten to death by a mob of fellow students on his university campus in Peshawar, Pakistan, earlier this year for questioning religion.
The people who threatened me are true to their word. It's very real. This is the no man's land I find myself in: Islamic fundamentalism on the one hand and anti-Muslim bigotry on the other. I get it from both sides. It is from this perspective that I want to present to you the difference between challenging ideas and demonizing people. This does not need to be a partisan issue. In certain leftist circles, any criticism of Islamic doctrine is seen as bigotry against all Muslims. In certain right-leaning circles the problematic aspects of Islamic doctrine are used as an excuse to blanketly demonize, profile, and even ban Muslims, as we've seen proposed south of the border.
Both sides make the mistake of conflating Islam with Muslims. Islam, like any other religion, is a set of ideas in a book. Muslims, on the other hand, are human beings. Human beings have rights and are entitled to respect. Ideas, books, and beliefs don't and aren't. The right to believe what we want is sacred; the beliefs themselves aren't. Challenging ideas move societies forward; demonizing people rips societies apart. Neither side makes this crucial, key distinction. The word “Islamophobia” is an umbrella term that also conflates legitimate criticism of Islam—as is being done by many of my fellow liberals and secular activists trying to change our societies in the Muslim world—with the demonization of Muslims, which is obviously wrong. Remember, we don't use terms like “Judaismophobia”. We say, “anti-Semitism”, a term oriented around prejudice against people, not ideas. Demonizing people goes against our liberal values, but criticizing dogmatic ideas and beliefs is at the very heart of free speech, also one of our fundamental values. Criticizing Islam isn't bigotry, but singling it out for protection is and demonizing Muslims as people is. We should be wary of organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood, who have popularized the term “Islamophobia” for a very clever reason. It allows them to exploit the pain of real victims of anti-Muslim hate for the political purpose of stifling criticism of religion.
Here is my proposal regarding M-103. If the motion simply uses the term “anti-Muslim bigotry” instead of “Islamophobia”, I would back it 100%, as would many conservatives I've spoken to. It would strip its critics of their main argument. You may argue, why make such a big deal about semantics? I would ask the same question to my audience today. If this term is preventing opposition members and critics from backing the motion, and if we truly care about the goals and purpose of this motion to help curb anti-Muslim bigotry, why not call it anti-Muslim bigotry or anti-Muslim hate or anti-Muslim sentiment? It does exactly the same thing and it doesn't take away an iota of the meaning of the motion and what we want to achieve. Yet, it also removes the barriers preventing its critics from backing it. If we liberals care about the substance of this motion over semantics we lose nothing and gain everything from making this one small change.
We are all beneficiaries of the great thinkers of the enlightenment. Today there is an enlightenment taking root in the Muslim world. We're seeing it happen all around us. Our goals should be to welcome and encourage these changes, the free exchange of ideas, both there and here, while still protecting the rights and freedoms of Canadian Muslims. We can do both.
Honourable members of the standing committee, I sit before you today as a proud member of the Ottawa Police Service, but also as a visible minority. I sit before you as a father with three sons, and I'm honoured that you called me today to talk about the crucial subject of systemic racism and religious discrimination. In all these capacities, I want to see systemic racism and discriminatory barriers removed.
During my time as a staff sergeant with the Ottawa Police Service diversity and race relations section, I've personally heard from vulnerable people who were subjected to racism and discrimination based on their religion. It must end.
In November 2015, a white Caucasian woman who is a vice-principal in our local public school was viciously targeted. She woke up one morning to find numerous dog feces samples piled on her doorstep, along with the words “Go home” smeared on the sidewalk. Her only crime? She wears a hijab. In that year, we had more reports of hate crime incidents against Muslim women. The percentage doubled from the previous year, from 2014 to 2015. I've seen the fear in the eyes of the community members when attacks happen in a remote part of the world in the name of Islam, and how scared Muslims become that they will be part of the next Quebec shooting. I've heard mothers tell me that they look over their shoulder in parking lots, afraid they might be mowed down in daylight.
In November 2016, three religious sites were targeted with vandalism in Ottawa: a mosque, a synagogue, and a church with a black pastor. The offender was just 17 years old, and he pleaded guilty to inciting hatred.
In the same month, a local rabbi's personal home was pasted with hate graffiti. We have to ask ourselves how it is that despite the Holocaust, one of the biggest tragedies of our time, the Jewish community still continues to be targeted by hatred. How are we allowing this to happen in our communities?
Members of the committee, as a visible minority myself, I've witnessed a woman being accidentally run over by a taxicab early one morning. In the aftermath, I did what any police officer would do. I tried to help the victim involved and tried to take control of the scene, but in the absence of my uniform, I almost felt powerless. Bystanders didn't co-operate. They were rude and angry toward me. I firmly believe that my skin colour reduced my chances of being taken seriously and that my uniform gives me a privilege.
In closing, I can say that all of us, including police officers, have biases, and that has been proven through science. Sometimes, unwittingly, those biases translate into racism. When my dear colleague Chris Hrnchiar made comments about Inuit artist Annie Pootoogook, his comments caused immense pain. As a board member for the Ottawa Inuit Children's Centre, I saw first-hand the trauma that the Inuit community felt because of his comments. Working with the community and Chris, it was also an opportunity for immense healing and reconciliation. Chris is an amazing individual, but he made a mistake. He was very open to understanding and learning. I commend him, and I'm proud to work with him.
Your task as a committee will now be to understand what we can all do to help all Canadians be open to changing and addressing their own biases.
I am calling on you to support public awareness campaigns that are community-led, working hand in hand with law enforcement. We all have a stake in this fight to eradicate discrimination. More support is needed for initiatives that help recognize biases. Organizations like Ottawa Victim Services are charities that need support. They should receive consistent government funding to help them continue the work they are doing to support victims of crime. Legislation is needed that requires all law enforcement agencies to annually report hate crimes and trends and associated risks.
In order to address these issues, we need to diagnose what the problem is. This is a collective responsibility, and I am honoured to wear my uniform and my skin colour with pride in the hope that Canada will be free of racism and religious discrimination, a place of inclusion where my children don't experience hate. At this point in time in human evolution on the globe, it is time to recognize that diversity and building relationships is a strength we need to develop for creating a strong and peaceful future.
Honourable members of the committee, it is my hope that Canada will be seen as a peacemaker once again. Furthermore, it's my hope that law enforcement will focus on community policing. Through my work at diversity and race relations, I've had a chance to really work hand in hand with the community. Their stories are very powerful and their lived experiences important for us to know.
Thank you for providing me a platform and voice to the community of our diverse nation. We are stronger and better when we listen to each other, understand one another, and work together.
Thank you for taking the time to listen to me today. I welcome questions.
That's right. Even honorary ones should be trumpeted wherever possible, although I know yours is the real deal.
I want to thank you for your balanced presentation.
By way of response to your suggestions as to how to deal with this report that we'll be developing on this motion going forward, I agree 100% with your suggestion that we use terms like “anti-Muslim bigotry” in place of the term “Islamophobia”.
In fact, my colleague David Anderson proposed a motion, which was voted on in the House of Commons 48 hours before the vote on M-103. It specifically recognized “the recent and senseless violent acts at a Quebec City mosque”, and it called on the House to “condemn all forms of systemic racism, religious intolerance, and discrimination of Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus, and other religious communities”.
I agree with your approach. Whether we're discussing other communities or just Muslims, I think that approach is the right one.
You're aware of the fact that Motion M-103 makes reference to petition e-411. Are you aware of that fact?
As I mentioned in my opening statement, the term “Islamophobia” is very broad. It includes not just anti-Muslim bigotry and hate against Muslims, but also any criticism of Islam, the religion itself, so now we are talking about scripture: the Quran, Hadith, or what have you.
When you have that kind of situation, it goes further than just hate. It actually impinges on free speech. The important thing I want to note here is that right now it's the free speech of millions—according to polling—of secular and liberal activists, people who are fighting for free speech in Muslim countries. They get hit with this label a lot because they criticize Islamic doctrine.
One important thing to understand is that in countries where Muslims are a minority, like here in Canada, Islam is an identity. I have a Muslim identity. My family has a Muslim identity. However, in countries where Muslims are a majority, Islam has more of that religious function. It's put into action. While Muslim women here choose to wear the hijab, or head scarf, as a symbol of their identity and their belief—which we support, obviously—that same head scarf is forced onto women by their governments, their husbands, and their fathers in Iran and Saudi Arabia. Often it is here as well.
The same book that people here revere as sacred, over there is put into law and used to justify everything from the execution of apostates to the persecution of homosexuals and so on.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to both of our witnesses.
Mr. Rizvi, on the point around the definition, I'm sad to say that ship has sailed for the purpose of this committee. I recall how during the debate I was desperately working across the floor between the Liberals and the Conservatives to see whether we could come to an agreement so that we could have unanimous support. As you stated, the issue at hand is far more important than disagreement with respect to the definition. There was certainly an effort made, but ultimately, I believe, the Prime Minister's Office put their foot down and the thing did not go through. So, sadly, here we are.
I have studied the motions put forward by the Conservatives and the Liberals, the one we are studying today, and I think the end goal is really to ensure that the issue of discrimination in all its forms be addressed in our Canadian society.
Moving to recommendations and issues before us, I'd like to turn my questions to Staff Sergeant Zackrias.
You mentioned something that I think the previous panel also touched on, which is an individual's own personal and hidden fears, and the discrimination within us. Sometimes we don't even see it or identify with it. With the example that you gave about the car accident, I think you were illustrating a point.
On that issue, in terms of recommendations, how can we address this effectively, with a national approach to it? You mentioned working with NGOs, being led by NGOs with respect to that. Would you say we need a national strategy across the country from government to address the issue of racial and religious discrimination, with a specific stream to provide supports and resources to NGOs to lead the process on education and awareness?
Yes, I would support that. I'm in full agreement. There's a need for a national strategy. If we don't address hate crimes and racial and religious discrimination, they could manifest and have far-reaching implications, based on what's happening around the world, for example.
Yes, we need to focus on building that awareness, as well as the education piece. The previous panel touched on the Harvard implicit bias test. I've done that test as well, and it's a great tool. It helps you to recognize your implicit biases and it also helps manage your biases. I strongly support that.
In 2016 we introduced fair and impartial police training for Ottawa police officers. It was mandatory training for all of our members. It touches on the science and theory behind human biases. From my understanding, there isn't a lot of Canadian research done in this field. We had to rely on the American research. The product itself, the fair and impartial policing training, is American based, and it is applied here. I believe Toronto Police Service is also providing this training, as well as Durham Regional Police Service and the Ottawa Police Service.
We need something at a national level, where all agencies implement this sort of training. Also, there's an element of need to push this training within the community, as community members have biases as well. It has to be done at all different levels.