03/27/2018 09:07 EDT | Updated 03/27/2018 09:16 EDT

Muslims Shouldn't Have To Wait For Government Action On Islamophobia

Canada's Muslims face Islamophobia on a daily basis: missing out on jobs, facing obstacles to integration and enduring racist slurs.

The federal government recently announced that their response to last month's M-103 motion report will be more consultations. This is extremely disappointing.

Motion M-103 and its resulting report were not some sort of "academic exercise" to assess a hypothetical problem. In reality, the M-103 motion was motivated largely by an attack on a Quebec City mosque on Jan. 29, 2017, which left six Muslims dead.

The M-103 report was drafted after hearings with 77 witnesses. It was nearly 100 pages, and offered 30 well-thought-out recommendations spanning the breadth of the concerns the committee had heard. Despite being mandated to finish within six months, the M-103 report took almost a year to complete. As such, it's unacceptable that the government's response to the report is merely suggesting more consultations.

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A protest over the M-103 motion to fight Islamophobia, in downtown Toronto on March 4, 2017.

For many across the political spectrum, the need for a new wave of consultations is not apparent, and the Liberal government has provided no justification for last week's announcements. In such circumstances, it's fair to ask what do we hope to learn from such consultations that we don't already know?

While the report's first recommendation made mention of additional consultations, it didn't suggest that such consultations would be expansive, or a prerequisite to other prompt and concrete action.

Indeed, Canadian Heritage spokesperson Simon Ross suggested last week that the consultations wouldn't be large-scale, but this is hardly reassuring to those who see the need for prompt action. Past consultations carried out by the Liberal government have taken months to complete, and are inevitably followed by months required to develop a summary report.

Another valid concern expressed by many is whether such consultations would simply create more polarization across Canadian society. If Quebec's Bouchard-Taylor Commission on religious accommodation is any indication, such consultations seemed to deepen tensions. The Commission's hearings were packed, and tended to bring out individuals with the most extreme views across society. Over time, the acrimony between competing views only seemed to worsen and expand as the Bouchard-Taylor commission moved from city to city.

Canada's Muslims face Islamophobia on a daily basis.

More recently, opposition to the Quebec government's attempt to hold consultations around religious discrimination created such intense backlash that the Couillard government backtracked and altered its plan.

Last year's rancorous debate around motion M-103 demonstrated that discussions around Islamophobia and religious discrimination tend to spawn angry and irrational rhetoric laced with "alternative facts." Those urging the federal Liberals to be cautious with more "consultations" are spot on.

Nobody would argue that consultations are a bad thing, but when they seem unjustified, are likely to exacerbate problems and appear to delay realaction, it's right to question them.

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The latest federal budget provided funding to enhance multiculturalism in Canada. This funding could be used to implement several of the specific recommendations of the M-103 report: more resources for law enforcement to prevent Islamophobia and religious discrimination; more sensitivity training for government service employees; new funding for newly established institutions among Canada's religious minorities.

Canada's Muslims face Islamophobia on a daily basis: missing out on jobs, facing obstacles to integration and enduring racist slurs.

Being a relatively new immigrant community that is less familiar with Canadian institutions, Muslim communities are less well-positioned to leverage the programs and assistance available to them, and less likely to report the racism and hate crimes they face, or to otherwise invoke the protections afforded by Canadian society. As such, they should no longer have to wait for action from this government.

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