A new three-year anti-racism strategy has been revealed by the Canadian federal government with a promise of $45 million to fight systemic discrimination through community programs, public education campaigns, and combating online hate, National Post reported.
“While we take pride in being a welcoming and inclusive country, we know that racism and discrimination are still a reality for many Canadians across the country,” Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez said in a statement.
“This national anti-racism strategy is an essential first step in building a more inclusive country, where all Canadians can participate equally.”
The new plan was unveiled on Tuesday and it includes a definition of Islamophobia taken from the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
It defines Islamophobia as “Includ(ing) racism, stereotypes, prejudice, fear or acts of hostility directed towards individual Muslims or followers of Islam in general. In addition to individual acts of intolerance and racial proﬁling, Islamophobia can lead to viewing and treating Muslims as a greater security threat on an institutional, systemic and societal level.”
It also fulfils key recommendations from a parliamentary committee study that arose from a controversial anti-Islamophobia motion, M-103, which concluded last year.
The government’s anti-racism strategy comes more than a year after the House of Commons heritage committee released the results of its study of systemic racism and religious discrimination.
Though M-103 did not entail any new legislation, it ignited a political firestorm, with Conservatives arguing it would stifle free speech as, they said, the term Islamophobia was poorly defined.
The anti-racism strategy was developed following 22 consultation sessions between October 2018 and March 2019, where the government heard from about 600 people.
The strategy promises $4.6 million to establish an anti-racism secretariat within the federal Heritage department that would “lead a whole-of-government approach in addressing racism” and would report publicly on its results.
It commits another $30 million to community-based projects focused on reducing barriers to employment and participation in sport, arts and culture.
Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey estimated Muslims in Canada to be around 1,053,945, or about 3.2% of the population, making Islam the second largest religion in the country after Christianity.
Statistics Canada reported a 151% spike in police-reported anti-Muslim hate crimes in 2017 following the Quebec mosque attack and the RCMP says far-right extremists have become emboldened in Canada.
Two years ago, a Canadian lone gunman opened fire at a mosque in Quebec City on the evening of January 29, 2017, killing six and injuring 19.