March 21, 2022
As I sit down to write this message on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, I note that according to the United Nations the theme this year is “VOICES FOR ACTION AGAINST RACISM”. The aim of the theme is to highlight the importance of strengthening meaningful and safe public participation and representation in all areas of decision-making to prevent racial discrimination; reaffirming the importance of full respect for the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and of protecting civic space; and recognizing the contribution of individuals and organizations that stand up against racial discrimination and the challenges they face.
Over the previous two days I have read two different reports concerning racism in Canada. The first one relates to an incident in Mississauga, Ontario. According to press reports, the Peel Region police were called to the Dar Al-Tawheed Islamic Centre in Mississauga last Saturday after a man attacked the congregation gathered for prayers. The man had entered the mosque wielding an axe and bear spray.
Police has stated that the man is facing several charges including assault with a weapon, administering a noxious substance with intent to endanger life or cause bodily harm, possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose, uttering threats, carrying a concealed weapon and mischief to religious property.
The second report relates to incidents of hate crimes in Canada. New data released by Statistics Canada show the number of hate crimes reported to police across the country went up 37 per cent in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic compared with the previous year. The agency says 2,669 hate crimes were reported in 2020 — the highest number since comparable data became available in 2009.
The federal agency reported that hate crimes targeting East or Southeast Asian people went up 301 per cent; those targeting Black people went up 92 per cent; those against Indigenous people went up 152 per cent; and those against South Asian people went up 47 per cent. The report says the highest increases in police-reported hate crimes were in Nova Scotia (70 per cent), British Columbia (60 per cent), Saskatchewan (60 per cent), Alberta (39 per cent) and Ontario (35 per cent).
We must make the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination meaningful and condemn all acts of racism, discrimination and hate. While we condemn acts of racism and hate based on skin colour or religion, we also need to support victims of racist attacks.
How can we strengthen safe public participation and representation in all areas of decision-making by all individuals if we do not eradicate racial or religious discrimination?
Over the last two years, there have been many protests against racism and racial discrimination. These demonstrations have raised the importance for Canadians to address systemic inequalities inundating Black, Indigenous, and other racialized communities.
Let us join together and raise our VOICES FOR ACTION AGAINST RACISM. We must recognize that racism is a reality in Canada and take steps to eradicate it. Let us take action against racism and hate motivated crimes and make Canada free of all forms of discrimination.