Canada’s unions unequivocally condemn the recent escalation of hate crimes and violence against members of numerous racialized and religious minority communities across the country.
The most recent and tragic hate-motivated attack occurred on Sunday in London, Ontario. A Muslim family out for an evening walk were plowed down by a lone driver which resulted in the murder of four family members, and which led to serious injury to the only surviving family member ꟷ a nine-year-old boy.
“I extend our deepest condolences to the family of those who were targeted in this horrific attack,” said Hassan Yussuf, President of the Canadian Labour Congress. “Our hearts are with Muslim community members in London and across Canada who are forced to make sense of yet another heinous act of violence and terror.”
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, reports of hate crimes targeting several communities have gone up. Toronto Police Service’s annual report released in April 2021 showed a 51% rise in hate crime complaints and arrests in the city ꟷ a sharp increase from previous years. The data reported Jewish and Black community members as the most commonly targeted. The pandemic has also brought with it an increase in anti-Asian attitudes and a rise in hate crimes and violence against Asian communities across Canada.
This rise reflects national police-reported hate crimes data which also show an increase, though Statistics Canada has found that about two-thirds of victims say they do not report.
Anti-Muslim sentiment, rhetoric and violence has only grown since January 29, 2017, when a gunman opened fire inside a Quebec City mosque, killing six worshippers and injuring many more. This day has now been designated as the National Day of Remembrance of the Quebec City Mosque Attack and Action against Islamophobia.
Jewish community members and groups have also reported an increase in antisemitic rhetoric and acts of hate, including intimidation, threats and harassment of community members.
“We continue to see a highly troubling rise in racist and xenophobic acts, as well as the wide and rapid proliferation of hate online, all of which have devastating consequences for members of religious minority and racialized communities,” said Yussuff. “We look forward to seeing the federal government table legislation to address online hate as soon as possible to help address this phenomenon.”
“Racism, antisemitism and Islamophobia are incompatible with core union values of solidarity, democracy and social justice. Unions and union members have a responsibility to take steps to eliminate hate-motivated violence and harassment in workplaces and in our communities,” said Larry Rousseau, CLC’s Executive Vice-President.
Canada’s unions welcomed the federal government’s addition of violent, far-right extremist groups, including the Proud Boys, the Base, Atomwaffen, and the Russian Imperial Movement, to its list of terrorist organizations in February of this year. Groups such as these pose a severe threat to the safety and wellbeing of all workers, especially those belonging to marginalized communities.
In spite of this progress, there remains much work to be done when it comes to countering the ever-expanding reach of far-right white supremacist groups.
Far-right populist rhetoric espoused by groups such as these has also gained a foothold via anti-mask and anti-lockdown protests, whose attendees’ grievances have centered on a rejection of public health guidelines and orders, and the propagation of notions of government persecution.
“The pandemic is being used as a cover to spread hate and fear, and we must do everything we can to guard against this. This includes actively and rigorously combatting white supremacy and far-right extremism in our communities,” added Rousseau.
Canada’s unions are deeply committed to fighting against the scourge of racism and xenophobia, including Islamophobia, antisemitism and all forms of hate. We will continue to work with all levels of government to protect the safety and wellbeing of all workers, and promote safer and fairer workplaces and communities for all.
For more information on how to confront Islamophobia in our workplaces and communities, read our report: Islamophobia at Work: Challenges and Opportunities.