TORONTO – A coalition of national and provincial organizations and agencies has partnered to launch an awareness raising campaign that encourages Ontarians to stand up to Islamophobia and racism.
OCASI – Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, the Canadian Arab Institute (CAI), the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) and the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) have collaborated with media studio Mass Minority on a range of public education strategies, including public service announcements and a social media campaign.
One 30-second PSA features a family enjoying a day at an ice-skating rink. They return home to find the words “Muslims go home” spray-painted on their garage door. Neighbours arrive to assist in the clean-up.
A second 30-second PSA features a classroom where a student is telling racist jokes. A classmate intervenes to stop him from sharing another offensive punch line.
The theme of the public education campaign is “Break the Behaviour.” It includes a website where visitors are encouraged to sign a pledge that they will reject Islamophobia and racism in all its forms, and commit to working to overcome inequality and achieve a shared prosperity for everyone.
“With the arrival of Syrian refugees over the course of the past year, many of us working in the immigration and refugee sectors were concerned about rising Islamophobia,” says Debbie Douglas, Executive Director at OCASI. “It was important that we work with partners to ensure that we encourage Ontarians to stand up to Islamophobia, wherever they see it.”
The most recent data from Statistics Canada indicates that Muslims in Canada have experienced a doubling in hate crimes over a three-year period. No other group has reported such a significant rise. Recent polls by Forum Research and Abacus Data also indicate that Muslims experience bias and discrimination more often than any other group in Canada.
“Canadians have by and large been incredibly welcoming of Syrian refugees and newcomers. However, there is troubling evidence of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment in our communities which makes such a campaign both timely and necessary,” says Amira Elghawaby, Communications Director at the NCCM.
“Arabs, regardless of their religion, can face discrimination because of their ethnicity or place of origin,” adds Raja Khouri, president of the CAI. “It can go beyond hate messaging to discrimination in job opportunities and barriers to participating in various aspects of public life.”
“Human rights systems play a key role in holding institutions and individuals accountable for discrimination. But to create a culture of human rights, we need to empower individuals to challenge racism and Islamophobia in the moment,” says OHRC Chief Commissioner Renu Mandhane. “This campaign does just that – it encourages us all to see ourselves as human rights accountability agents.”