The Ontario Human Rights Review is currently underway.
You can attend one of the consultation meetings below, or send written submissions by March 1 to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Windsor – February 13, 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
277 Riverside Drive West,
London – February 14, 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Best Western Plus, Lamplighter Inn and Conference Centre,
591 Wellington Road,
Key Largo Room
Toronto – February 15, 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Chestnut Residence and Conference Centre,
University of Toronto,
89 Chestnut Street, Toronto, Ontario
Ottawa – February 16, 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Travelodge Ottawa Hotel & Conference Centre,
1376 Carling Avenue,
Sudbury – February 21, 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Howard Johnson Plaza Sudbury,
50 Brady Street,
Suite 134 Boardroom
Toronto – February 24 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Chestnut Residence and Conference Centre,
University of Toronto,
89 Chestnut Street, Toronto, Ontario
See more information here.
by Fathima Cader and Sumayya Kassamali
Ten years after September 11, 2001, the term “Islamophobia,” once largely obscure, has become all but inevitable when discussing contemporary politics. As Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden became household names, Western fear of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims has also grown. Canada has been no stranger to this phenomenon. Despite its reputation as a haven of multicultural tolerance, one 2011 poll showed that 56% of Canadians believe Western societies are in “irreconcilable conflict” with Muslim societies. 40% of the 1500 respondents approved the profiling of airplane passengers who appear Muslim. As Canada enters its seventh year of Conservative rule, how are progressives to understand and respond to this trend?
Islamophobia relies on characterizations of Islam and its adherents as uniquely prone to certain things, such as violence and sexism, and uniquely hostile to others, such as democracy and secular government. It includes discrimination based on perceived religious identity, such that non-Muslims, including Sikhs and Arab Christians, have also been targets of anti-Muslim violence in cases of “mistaken identity.” Meanwhile, Muslims in North America who do not appear to come from the Middle East or South Asia, such as Muslims of European or East Asian descent, have been less centrally targeted in this blurry overlap of religious and racial discrimination.
In this primer, we do not attempt to cover every instance of Islamophobia in Canada in the past decade. Rather, we provide an overview of its broad assumptions, particularly focusing on two themes that have proven central to discussions about Muslims: sexism and violence.
In offering this analysis, we stress that responses to Islamophobia must be placed within the context of Canada’s ongoing conservative political shift — from its increased military engagements around the world to its anti-immigrant policies at home, and from its vast cuts in social service funding to its ever-increasing levels of state surveillance. While numerous civil liberties and human rights organizations have reported on the rise of anti-Muslim hate crimes in Canada, we emphasize that Islamophobia is not just interpersonal: it is systemic. In fighting it, therefore, we must engage with the many other forms of oppression that also organize Canadian society.
Khalid Aba-Alkhail, Manal AlSaigh, and Waleed Alghaithy, three physicians from Saudi Arabia, have filed a lawsuit against the University of Ottawa for over $150 million dollars. The doctors were enrolled in postgraduate medical education programs at the university, where they claimed the experienced discrimination and harassment resulting in the termination of their enrollment.
UofO Student Appeal Centre director Mireille Gervais appears to support the plaintiffs,
I’ve seen some of the evidence that supports the claim, and I am continuously in shock to see how far the university’s misbehaviour and egregious behaviour in this case has gone. There’s documented evidence to support the fact that there really was a conspiracy toward these students.
The university however released a statement yesterday denying the allegations. The CBC reports that the university spokesperson stated,
…the university “denies all allegations of wrongdoing made in the suit. The claims are entirely false, and the university will be vigorously defending itself against this suit, and defending the quality and the integrity of its medical education programs.”
The statement goes on to say that the faculty of medicine “has been welcoming foreign medical students for more than 30 years, and boasts one of the largest numbers of foreign residents and fellows in Canada, the majority of whom have successfully achieved the required academic standards for graduation.”
“We take pride in our diversity and high standards, and believe that they contribute to our excellence,” the university said.
The plaintiff’s Statement of Claim, which is over 120 pages long and was filed on November 24, 2011, is below.
A reader contacted us to provide the following materials. Although the veracity of the emails cannot be vouched for directly, the related motion is confirmed as an actual reported decision:
The Honourable Justice Binnie spoke at RightsWatch on October 21, 2011 in Calgary, Alberta.
2nd When Law and Hate Collide Pan-European Hate Crime Symposium
Courtesy of Canadian Lawyer 4Students:
Featuring Dave Shellnutt of Osgoode Hall.
Given the backdrop of the G20 in Toronto, this is worth sharing:
To Chief Bill Blair and the Toronto Police Service:
In June, 2010 at the G20 summit Toronto saw the largest mass arrests in Canadian history. Complaints too numerous to mention were filed against police officers and many of the investigations and law suits that resulted from that weekend will be ongoing for years to come. On October 15 another mass demonstration is coming to Toronto as part of the Occupy Everywhere movement. Neither the people of Toronto, nor I’m sure, its police force want to see a repeat of the G20 weekend.
We, the undersigned, expect that officers will be professional, will attempt to communicate with demonstrators at all times, will make any requests or demands clear and will give citizens including demonstrators, passers by, observers and the media every opportunity to comply with those requests before taking any action.
All officers should have their badges visible at all times, be prepared to produce identification and/or provide a business card on request.
If there is violence it should not, under any circumstances, be instigated by the police and in the event it is necessary the minimum possible force should be used. Under no circumstances should police resort to the use of tear gas, pepper spray, tazers, rubber bullets, sound cannons or any other device, substance or method that may harm individuals other than the intended target.
Individuals should neither be arrested nor detained unless there is an intent on the part of the police to charge them with a crime.
Individuals should not be kettled or impeded in any way unless there is a belief on the part of police that they were involved in a crime or are about to commit a crime.
Police should prioritize their concerns and take a realistic view of potential security threats so that this isn’t a repeat of the “Officer Bubbles” incident.
Police should not, under any circumstances, threaten, harass or impede medical volunteers attempting to treat the injured.
All individuals, including those who have been detained and arrested, should be treated with courtesy, dignity and respect. This includes insuring that their human and civil rights are observed, that they have access to legal counsel and adequate food, water, sanitation and medical attention if necessary.
Above all individual officers should be prepared to be held accountable for their actions. Toronto, Canada and the world will be watching. The demonstrations will be heavily photographed, recorded to video and otherwise documented. “Following orders” will not be acceptable justification for the mistreatment of individuals.
Canada is a democratic country and its citizens are gathering, in solidarity with individuals around the world, to demand reform. They have every right to do so. It is the responsibility of the Toronto Police Service to insure the safety of citizens, insure that individual rights are upheld and that property is protected, not to act as political agents on behalf of the current government. Many of the reforms being sought would, ultimately, be of benefit to police officers and their families. Perhaps, if the Occupy Toronto actions go well, the rift between Toronto and its police that opened as a result of the 2010 G20 meeting can begin to heal.
Check out the website, My Fellow American.
Attorney-General of Ontario, Chris Bentley, spoke at the Canadian Club of Toronto on 50 years of human rights development, and the need to protect our current system.
Full text below:
AGHR Speech May24
Today, the court hears Abdullah al-Kidd’s case against John Ashcroft over the Bush administration’s detention practices
Abdullah al-Kidd wasn’t what I expected when I met him on February 14 in a conference room at a legal firm in downtown Los Angeles. Al-Kidd’s name may not be readily familiar, but his civil rights lawsuit against former Attorney General John Ashcroft has become one of the most politically charged cases of the post-September 11 era to reach the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed in October to hear the case.
Full story at The Atlantic.
‘For the first time the Supreme Court has ruled that superior courts are empowered to order governments to fund public interest litigation before statutory courts and tribunals. [...]
Brodsky suggested that “if governments don’t want the courts to attempt to deal with the problems that have been created by cuts to access-to-justice programs, then governments need to address the gaps themselves.”
She told The Lawyers Weekly “the possibility of obtaining an interim cost award can never replace the Court Challenges Program, or civil legal aid programs, that have been decimated in places like B.C. The limitations of the case-by-case cost-seeking approach are underscored by the decision in Caron in that the court confirmed that interim cost awards must be ‘highly exceptional.’ However, in reality, the circumstances in which the absence of public funding works a serious injustice are not highly exceptional. Such circumstances have become very ordinary in Canada.”’
In a unanimous decision in October 2010, the Ontario Court of Appeal affirmed that a sexual assault complainant may wear a niqab, a Muslim facial veil, while testifying. The Muslim Canadian Congress had intervened on behalf of the two accused men who had requested the order that the complainant remove her niqab. Upon the judgement’s release, Tarek Fatah, founder of the MCC, argued that the decision made “a fool of the Canadian judicial system and values of gender equality”. In fact, the court had paid careful attention to balancing the witness’s freedom of religion and the accused’s right to make full answer and defence. To date, Fatah is perhaps the only person to so openly argue that allowing a sexual assault complainant to testify in front of her alleged attackers in the clothes in which she feels safest is a denial of gender equality. For some context, it is worth noting that Fatah has long been a vociferous advocate of a total ban of the niqab in Canada. His response to attempts in Quebec to ban the niqab was to proclaim, “I welcome the rescue of all Muslim-Canadian women.” The wholesale paternalism of his language is revealing: to the extent that Fatah wishes to counter gender inequities, his position has persistently emerged from a patriarchal perspective that infantalises Muslim women by denying their agency in making sartorial and religious choices for themselves, even such highly contested choices as the one to wear niqab.
To be sure, generalised public discomfort around the niqab did inform most mainstream debate about the decision. However, in this paper I want to shift the discussion away from the Huntington-esque clash-of-civilisations characterisation advocated by Fatah to a more considered analysis of both the specific reasonings and the broader implications of the judgement. I argue here that the judgement actually signals a substantive attempt by the OCA to address some of the systemic inequities that entrench the pervasiveness of gendered violence in society.
FACTS AND HISTORY
The facts of the case are distressing, but not atypical for sexual assault cases. The complainant, N.S., alleged that between the ages of six and 11 she had been repeatedly sexually assaulted by her uncle and her cousin, the accused. In 1992, when she was 16, N.S. disclosed the assaults to a teacher, but the accused were not charged until 2007.
In 2004, as part of her practice of Islam, N.S. began wearing the hijab, a headscarf, and niqab, a veil that covers her face, whenever in the presence of males who are not her direct relatives. At the preliminary inquiry in 2008, after electing trial by judge and jury, both accused men sought an order that would require N.S. to remove her niqab before testifying. The preliminary inquiry judge ruled in favour of the accused. Read more