EDMONTON — Alberta's premier says groups that experience hate crimes will soon be able to apply for grants to pay for security upgrades but one Muslim organization says more is needed to address racism in the province.
Yasin Cetin, a spokesman for the Muslim Association of Canada in Alberta, says Jason Kenney's government needs to commit more resources to address hate instead of putting aside funding "that is a small drop in the bucket compared to what's needed."
"Security grants are one piece of that puzzle and we welcome that," said Cetin, a community outreach and engagement adviser for the association.
"But this should just be the beginning of the work to dismantle white supremacy, racism and Islamophobia. There needs to be more done to address the root cause of these feelings. It's more a matter of taking an anti-racist lens and inclusive lens to addressing different policy pieces."
Kenney announced Friday that the $10,000 grants could save the lives of people who are targets of hatred because of who they are or how they worship. The money could cover everything from security cameras to protection planning, training and education. The province is spending $500,000 on the program.
It's one of the initiatives announced by Alberta following hate-related encounters in the province against Black-Muslim women and other racialized groups, and comes after the deaths of four members of a Muslim family in London, Ont.
The province is also creating a community liaison to meet with groups facing hate-motivated crimes and plans to set up a hate crimes co-ordination unit to better focus and direct law enforcement.
Kenney called on Albertans to reach out to their Muslim neighbours, colleagues and friends to challenge hateful sentiments and white supremacy.
"The single most powerful weapon against hatred is simply relationships," he said.
Cetin said it was frustrating to hear the premier comment about spreading love to tackle white supremacy. He said the effects of colonialism are driving hate crimes in Alberta.
He noted the grant money couldn't have helped the 10 reported verbal and/or physical attacks against Black-Muslim women in Alberta in the span of a few months.
"How is that going to support a young Black woman wearing the hijab (while) riding the LRT or leaving the bus station?" he asked. "There needs to be tangible pieces of legislation."
Cetin also pointed to the government's draft public school curriculum that teachers have criticized as whitewashing colonial history. He said the curriculum is another example of how the government has not done enough to challenge racism.
"Yes, get to know our neighbours, but an education system should recognize the contributions and the history of Canadians of all stripes and backgrounds, including the Muslim community, including the Indigenous community," he said.
"How many more times do these attacks need to happen? How many more victims do we need to have? How many more people need to die, need to be victimized before governments take action?
"We've had enough of the thoughts and prayers."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 11, 2021.
Dean Bennett and Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press