Muslim leaders urge Ontario to adopt Our London Family Act to immediately combat Islamophobia

·3 min read
Aarij Anwer, imam of the London Muslim Mosque, right, and Nadia Hasan, chief operating officer of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, held a news conference outside the Ontario Legislature in Toronto on Monday to urge the province to introduce and pass legislation to tackle violent and systemic forms of Islamophobia. (The Canadian Press - image credit)
Aarij Anwer, imam of the London Muslim Mosque, right, and Nadia Hasan, chief operating officer of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, held a news conference outside the Ontario Legislature in Toronto on Monday to urge the province to introduce and pass legislation to tackle violent and systemic forms of Islamophobia. (The Canadian Press - image credit)

Leaders of Canada's Muslim community are urging the Ontario government to take immediate action against Islamophobia and adopt measures they're proposing to get to the root of "systemic discrimination."

Nadia Hasan, chief operating officer of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, on Monday released what it calls the Our London Family Act, which includes several proposals to combat racism and discrimination in the wake of last June's truck attack on a Muslim family in the southwestern Ontario city that left four of them dead.

"We need to see action and we need to see it now," Hasan said. "As our three parties prepare for a spring election, our call is simple: no more violence."

The Canadian Press
The Canadian Press

Hasan said the act was developed from feedback from hundreds of Ontarians from a variety of backgrounds.

To address systemic discrimination long term, the act's proposals include:

  • Making changes to the educational system so children can better understand Islamophobia.

  • Dismantling white supremacist groups in the province by preventing them from registering as societies.

  • The formation of a provincial hate-crimes accountability unit that would investigate failures in fighting hate incidents.

  • Ontario hiring more minorities in the public service.

Salman Afzaal, 46, his 44-year-old wife Madiha Salman, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna and her 74-year-old grandmother, Talat Afzaal, were killed while out for an evening walk on June 6. The couple's nine-year-old son, Fayez, was seriously hurt but survived.

A 20-year-old is accused of deliberately hitting the family with his truck. He is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder in what prosecutors say was an act of terrorism.

At a news conference Monday, the NCCM said none of the three major Ontario political parties has done enough to combat Islamophobia.

Aarij Anwer, imam at the London Muslim Mosque, noted that Ontario Premier Doug Ford, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca attended the massive vigil held outside the mosque after the attack.

"All of you express your solidarity with us. You stood on our steps at the vigil and you promised change.

The Canadian Press
The Canadian Press

"We appreciate those beautiful words and those sentiments of solidarity, but we actually want the change more than anything else," Anwer said. "We have yet to see that happen to this day."

The Muslim leaders want action on its Our London Family Act before the next Ontario election set for June 2.

"We don't want to have another community funeral where we're all grieving," Anwer said. "We don't want to lose any more lives to hate or Islamophobia."

Shannon Whitteker, spokesperson for Minister of Citizenship and Multiculturalism Parm Gill, responded to the proposals by saying: "We look forward to reviewing the recommendations made today by the NCCM and the London Muslim Mosque, and remain committed to working with communities most impacted by racism and hate in our province.

"Last week, in the fall economic statement, our government committed to providing nearly $10 million to new and enhanced initiatives to help address systemic racism and hate, including doubling investments in the Anti-Racism Anti-Hate Grant Program," Whitteker said.

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