Following a series of violent attacks in Edmonton on women wearing hijabs, a new workshop aims to help bystanders intervene safely in hate-motivated incidents.
"As these incidents have increased in frequency, we are left to consider what we can do to keep our community safe," Iman Siddiqui, the workshop's organizer, said in a recent interview with CBC Edmonton's Radio Active.
In the past year, Muslim women in the Edmonton area have reported at least seven hateful, unprovoked attacks in which they were screamed at, shoved or pushed to the ground.
While other similar workshops have focus on teaching self defence, Siddiqui said this one will provide tools that help people safely intervene in hate-motivated incidents and provide support to victims.
She said everyone is welcome, particularly those who feel vulnerable.
Hate crimes have been on the rise across the country. Last month, the Montreal police released an annual report that suggested racially motivated crimes in 2020 increased by more than 50 per cent compared to the year prior.
Another motivator behind the workshop was last month's vehicle attack in London, Ont., which killed a Muslim family of four and left a nine year old boy in critical condition. Police said the attack was motivated by hate against the Islamic faith.
Siddiqui said it's important to learn how be a better bystander to help fight racism.
"The streets in public places are spaces for all of us, and we're all responsible for looking out for one another."
This new Edmonton workshop is hosted by Masjid in the Park, a mosque in Sherwood Park, and run in collaboration with the Saffron Centre and Strathcona County Family and Community Services.
Intervention should focus on victim
While bystander intervention is the goal, Saffron Centre program director Grace Schmuland said it's not easy to accomplish.
"But if you have that mindset of I want to help people, that's a really good first start," she said.
"It's OK to make mistakes. Learning from your mistakes will make you better at intervening next time."
Any interventions should focus on the victim and does not have to be direct or aggressive, Schmuland said.
"So it's not about coming in like a super hero and targeting the bad guy in that kind of thing that can often cause more harm than good," said Schmuland.
Even approaching the victims after the incident and providing comfort and support can be effective intervention, she said.
While this workshop is scheduled for July 16, registration is full. However, organizers said it's a pilot project and hopefully there will be others.
Information for future workshops will be available on Masjid in the Park's Facebook page.