The attack on a Muslim family that resulted in four deaths and one injured in June 2021 devastated London, Ontario and the surrounding communities.
This attack was the largest mass killing in London’s history but is one instance of a long-ongoing problem of Islamic hate crimes in Canada.
In response to this tragedy, a national summit on Islamophobia was held on July 22. The purpose of this summit was to provide a platform for Muslim organizations and communities to make recommendations for addressing Islamophobia in Canada.
The CMW has published their own recommendations on addressing Islamophobia in Canada after July’s summit. The recommendations are the result of their years of formal and informal community consultation and a large community consultation on Muslim women’s needs assessment.
Items the Coalition of Muslim Women recommends include sections covering definition and focus, hate crimes and hate incidents, gendered islamophobia, education, policing, and housing.
One of the key concerns of the CMW is hate crime accountability units.
There are many barriers to accurately reporting a hate crime in Canada such as an individual’s willingness to pursue legal action based on factors like fear of police or the emotional toll of legal proceedings. However, a large issue is how law enforcement themselves record and report hate crimes.
“[There are stories from the community saying ‘I called the police services for this, and they just said, oh this is… like, road rage, for example. Or neighbourhood dispute. Like, you know? It’s sort of an assault. But not a hate crime.’ Right away, at the beginning,” Mazhar said.
“There’s no exact sort of ‘hate crime’ in the Criminal Code of Canada. There’s nothing. Any crime can be a hate crime if it can be established that it was motivated by, or hate was an aggravating factor in the crime.”
The CMW has a third-party reporting system where hate crimes can be reported through channels including phone calls, text messages, and whatsapp. Through this system, the Coalition of Muslim Women provides mediation, counselling, and law enforcement liaison work on behalf of those who have experienced a hate crime.
“We have over 70 reports so far, and we have provided one-to-one support in different ways to just over 20 per cent of those more than 70 incidents. So it’s basically used and it’s getting more normal. One of the examples is when the duct taping incident happened at Alpine Public school, we received multiple calls from parents the same day. We had to call a meeting the same day, that afternoon,” Mazhar said.
Funding for this third-party reporting system will be expiring in April of 2022.
The Coalition of Muslim Women (CMW) was established in Kitchener-Waterloo in 2010 by a group of racialized Muslim women. It addresses Islamophobia, particularly gendered Islamophobia.
The organization was created in response to Bill 94 in Quebec, a bill that would require anyone receiving public services to show their face, targeting Muslim woman who wear niqabs.
“We call [Bill 94] a sort of grandfather of the secularism law that we have [today]. And many people say ‘call it grandmother’–I’m like, ‘No, no. Not grandmother. Grandfather.’ It’s very patriarchal in nature, so I’m not going to call it grandmother,” Fauzia Mazhar, Executive director and cofounder of CMW, said. “So, at the time, many of us here, Muslim women, we came together initially and we thought that this is not something that should be happening in Canada. Yes, it’s happening in Quebec, but it’s kind of setting the precedent.”
More information about the Coalition of Muslim Women and how to get involved can be found on their website.