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Leigh Naturkach's Statement to the Senate Committee on Human Rights on Islamophobia and Online Hate

On Monday, October 31st, 2022, Mosaic Institute's Executive Director, Leigh Naturkach, made a statement to the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights on Islamophobia and Online Hate:


On behalf of the Mosaic Institute, thank you for the invitation to provide testimony to the Senate Committee on Human Rights. We appreciate these efforts are part of a larger goal to create a stronger and more united Canada for all of us. We share that vision. Mosaic is a national non-for-profit that equips people with the knowledge and skills to dismantle prejudice. We work with diverse voices to inform solutions to community and systemic problems through research, dialogue, policy, education, and training. There is work to be done, particularly in addressing the stark ongoing reality of Islamophobia across this country. The Mosaic Institute’s 2019 testimony and recommendations to this Committee on online hatred pointed to the growing role of social media in anti-Muslim hate. Sources of Islamophobia include individuals, media, politicians, academics, institutions, far right groups, white supremacist extremists, and their supporters. Ignorant and intentional perpetrators spread negative stereotypes about Islam and Muslims through many channels that lead to discrimination, hate, abuse, violence, vandalism, destruction, and on the extreme end, murder. We know Canadians are more likely to harbour negative stereotypes about Muslim Canadians than other major religions. Police-reported crimes targeting Muslim religions increased 71% in 2021. Many occurrences go unreported. The Mosaic Institute is a bridge, convenor, platform, and resource for people and communities to identify, understand, and address prejudice. Since we last met in 2019, we’ve connected directly with over 1,000 youth and 500,000 people online and in-person across Canada. Overwhelmingly, we witness the need for increased and intersectional approaches to addressing prejudice, such as Islamophobia. What members of the Muslim community have shared with us regarding the impact of Islamophobia include othering, surveillance, hostility, harassment, demoralizing lack of bystander support, of having to choose between faith and safety. How many are seen as Muslim, but not Canadian. Young visibly Muslim women shared the extreme toll on their mental health of constantly assessing physical space, safety, fear, and related physical impacts. It is critical to acknowledge and address intersectional experiences of Islamophobia, particularly for Black and visibly Muslim women. There is often a noticeable erasure of their voices, lived experiences and agency. As some individuals shared, “We find comfort in solidarity in times of crisis and tragedy. We also need you to show up every day - in schools, subways, malls, offices, and on our streets by our side to protect and preserve our place in Canada.” At Mosaic, we equip people to show up. We help youth develop critical thinking skills, challenge notions about identity and create tangible action plans to improve communities. We convene scalable dialogues bringing together people with differing views to connect and co-create solutions. We produce community research that informs policy recommendations to address prejudice. The burden of preventing and addressing Islamophobia cannot be on the shoulders of those impacted by it. We have the stories, data, and recommendations. What we need is to continue to work together with action, and accountability. The Mosaic Institute is a willing partner to work with government and others to fight Islamophobia, together. To that end, our recommendations for consideration include:

  1. Meaningful and ongoing outreach, engagement, and leadership of diverse Muslim perspectives with a focus on intersectional identities in decision-making spaces. This requires continued work to connect with grassroots collectives to build stronger networks and approaches.

  2. Implement with appropriate resources the recommendations shared in the reports from the 2021 National Summit on Islamophobia created by the National Council for Canadian Muslims and the Canadian Council of Muslim Women.

  3. Invest in activities that nurture connection across communities and institutions to develop understanding, shared experiences and dialogue.

  4. Provide multi-year support for Muslim groups as well as organizations conducting work that addresses prejudice, hate, including initiatives focused on perpetrators.

  5. Support campaigns and intervention programs focused on bystanders that compel action and provide skills to intervene when witnessing hate.

  6. Provide accessible and effective education and training that includes anti-Islamophobia content for government, federally regulated employees, and representatives.

  7. Setting an example as leaders by: • fighting mis and disinformation • condemning Islamophobia in all forms, and counteracting dismissiveness and denial • acknowledging and condemning the existence and rise of white supremacism in Canada • challenge tightly held beliefs and diversify notions about what it is to be Canadian • sharing and centring diverse Muslim perspectives, art, content, and stories, as well as sharing and celebrating the contributions and history of Muslims in Canada over the last century

Thank you.

Leigh Naturkach Executive Director, The Mosaic Institute

416-644-6000 ext. 620

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