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Toronto launches campaign to bring attention to rising Islamophobia

The "Toronto For All" initiative comes after hate crimes against Muslim communities across Canada have increased
A Muslim woman puts a flower on the fence of the London Muslim Mosque in Ontario, Canada, on 11 June 2021 (AFP)

In an effort to bring awareness to rising Islamophobia in Canada, the city of Toronto has kicked off a new phase of its annual "Toronto For All" campaign to combat anti-Muslim sentiment and prejudice. 

Launched on Monday, the focus of this year's "Toronto For All" public education initiative is to spark conversations among Toronto's residents and foster a city that rejects discrimination and racism. Now in its 13th iteration, past campaigns have focused on various aspects of civic resiliency.

The campaign provides resources for people to educate themselves about Islam and its website links to factsheets, tools for educators, and books to read for children and adults. There is also information to support people dealing with Islamophobia, as well as opportunities for people wanting to be a part of Muslim organisations. 

“Islamophobia continues to be one of the reported hate crimes in our city. And yet, there is a perception that it is no longer a problem,” a spokesperson for the city of Toronto told Middle East Eye.

“While there was a campaign in 2016 on Islamophobia when Canada and Toronto were welcoming large numbers of Syrian refugees, the issue of Islamophobia continues to be very prevalent today.”

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In 2016, Canada brought in an influx of Syrian refugees. Between November 2015 and February 2016, Canada resettled 25,000 Syrian refugees, but that did not come without backlash. 

According to a survey released in 2016 by the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants and the advocacy group Mass Minority, only a third of Ontarians had a positive impression of Islam and more than half felt its mainstream doctrines promoted violence, which they noted was an anomaly compared to other religions. 

“These sentiments are echoed with Syrian refugees in Ontario where acceptance often coincides with acceptance of Islam,” the survey said.

More recently, a Canadian Senate committee report found that Islamophobia was "deeply" entrenched in Canadian society and Black hijab-wearing women were the most vulnerable.

Far-right and anti-Muslim hate groups are growing, along with incidents of hate, according to the report by Canada's Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights. 

Islamophobia 'entrenched' in Canada, Senate committee report says
Read More »

Police-reported hate crimes against Muslim communities across Canada increased by 71 percent in 2021 alone, with around eight incidents per 100,000 Muslims, Statistics Canada reported last year.

“Canada has a problem," committee chair Senator Salma Ataullahjan said in April.

"We are hearing of intergenerational trauma because young kids are witnessing this. Muslims are speaking out because there are so many attacks happening and they are so violent.”

In 2021, four members of a Muslim family were killed when a pickup truck ran them over as they were taking an evening walk in London, Ontario. 

In 2020, a mosque caretaker was killed in the Toronto area, while three years earlier, a gunman killed six Muslim men at a mosque in Quebec City.

"This Toronto For All campaign brings attention to Islamophobia in our city and calls on Torontonians to both confront it and eliminate it," the statement by the City of Toronto said.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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