NUPGE applauds federal designation of January 29 as a National Day of Remembrance

Though nothing will ever make up for the loss of Mamadou Tanou Barry, Azzeddine Soufiane, Abdelkrim Hassane, Ibrahima Barry, Aboubaker Thabti and Khaled Belkacemi, the designation ensures that they, and the survivors of the attack, are properly honoured.

Ottawa (29 Jan. 2021) — The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) commends the federal government for designating January 29 as a national day of remembrance for the 2017 shooting at the Islamic Cultural Centre in Ste-Foy. The attack was one of the worst domestic terrorist attacks in Canada since the Montreal massacre in 1989.

Though nothing will ever make up for the loss of Mamadou Tanou Barry, Azzeddine Soufiane, Abdelkrim Hassane, Ibrahima Barry, Aboubaker Thabti and Khaled Belkacemi, the designation ensures that they, and the survivors of the attack, are properly honoured.

Spotlight on Islamophobia in Canada

The designation also serves as a reminder that we must all be vigilant against Islamophobia. According to data compiled by Statistics Canada, most of those accused of hate crimes in Canada are young, and typically male. The median age of those accused of hate crimes is 25, and teenagers — those between the ages of 12 and 17 — comprised 25% of all people accused of hate crimes between 2010 and 2017. Of youth accused of hate crimes, 85% were male. This is worrisome as other research seems to indicate perpetrators are increasing the amount of hate material they consume online at young ages. New strategies must be created to address this trend.

The man who murdered Mohamed-Aslim Zafis, a volunteer who was sitting outside a mosque ensuring that worshipers observed COVID-19 safety regulations, consumed neo-Nazi content online. The shooter in the Islamic Cultural Centre attack also consumed far-right, white nationalist content online. But although both men were motivated by hatred, the burden of proving terrorist intent is high under Canadian law, so it’s rare for terrorists to actually be charged with terrorism in Canada. The Islamic Cultural Centre shooter was charged and convicted of murder, but critics rightfully pointed out that had the shooter been a person of colour, there likely would have been a different perception of them in the media and a higher possibility of getting a terrorism conviction.

When Liberal MP Iqra Khalid introduced a private member’s motion (a motion not legally binding as a bill is, which can become law), M-103, calling for Parliament to “condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination,” she received thousands of hateful emails and death threats. No one deserves to be persecuted for their identity, and it’s alarming that mass amounts of online hatred are being normalized by our society and by the social media platforms that refuse to properly moderate blatant hate speech.

Combatting hatred is a daily commitment we must all undertake

More resources need to be allocated to provide strategy and education against Islamophobia. This includes collecting more data on hate crimes, both online and off-line, to discover where the issues are and how we can combat them. We as individuals and members of the labour movement must commit to combatting hate in all forms.

In 2019, the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) published a paper called Islamophobia at Work: Challenges and Opportunities. NUPGE encourages all members to read the document to deepen their understanding on Islamophobia in Canada and to learn how to be better allies to the Muslim members of our communities.


NUPGE

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE