By RUSHANTHI KESUNATHAN
A proposed private member’s bill will designate Jan. 29 each year as a Day of Remembrance and Action on Islamophobia in Ontario.
Beaches-East York MPP Rima Berns-McGown introduced the bill at a press-conference Friday, March 22, morning at Queen’s Park. The bill was tabled this past Tuesday, March 19, in the Ontario Legislature.
“It is crucial that we collectively take this opportunity, as lawmakers, to quell the rising tide of Islamophobia, which is a particularly insidious form of hate,” Berns-McGown said at Friday’s press conference.
The date of Jan. 29 was selected as the day of action since it marks the anniversary of the 2017 Quebec City mosque shooting; an act of terrorism in which a gunman opened fire on worshippers at the Islamic Cultural Centre, killing six people and injuring 19.
“To invade sacred spaces where people are observing their faith makes these hate-fuelled attacks especially egregious,” Berns-McGown said.
Last Friday, on March 15, a gunman entered and opened fire at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand during Friday prayers, killing 50 worshippers.
During the press conference, Berns-McGown said it is crucial hate is confronted in all its forms and all its manifestations. If her private members bill becomes law, Ontario would join Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, Markham and Hamilton in recognizing a Day of Remembrance and Action on Islamophobia on Jan. 29.
The number of police-reported hate crimes rose sharply in 2017, according to Statistics Canada. The report says Ontario saw the greatest increase where hate crimes targeted the Muslim, Black and Jewish populations. There were 842 hate crimes targeting religious groups in 2017, according to the report.
“We can’t simply condemn racism or hate in general terms,” Berns-McGown said. “This bill asks us to think about where Islamophobia specifically resides and to take action to eliminate it.”
Mohammed Hashim, a board member of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, was also at Friday’s press conference to announce his United Against Islamophobia campaign.
Hashim said in his presentation that he kept his eye on the door at the mosque he was in last Friday during Jummah prayers because the sanctity of that space had shattered for him after the New Zealand shooting.