TORONTO – The City of Toronto, in conjunction with the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI), has launched a public education campaign to address xenophobia, Islamophobia, and anti-immigrant sentiments.
“Racism hurts our communities in so many ways,” said Amira Elghawaby, Communications Director at the National Council of Canadian Muslims, a partner on the public awareness campaign.
“It’s uplifting to see several key national and provincial organizations come together to encourage Torontonians to unite against discrimination.”
“We all have a responsibility to speak out against all forms of racism, including Islamophobia,” added Elghawaby.
“We must work together to ensure our cities are welcoming for all.”
Giving the awareness campaign the go-ahead, Toronto City Council directed it to dispel and prevent rumors and stereotypes that undermine social cohesion and community-building between immigrant and Canadian-born populations.
As part of the campaign, prominent bus shelter advertisements have begun appearing in Toronto, addressing Islamophobia and anti-immigrant sentiments in the city.
The campaign is part of the City’s Refugee Resettlement Program.
Since November 2015, approximately 4,500 Syrian refugees have settled in Toronto.
Toronto is the most populous city in Canada and the provincial capital of Ontario.
A recent study by BBC Radio named Toronto as the world’s most multicultural and cosmopolitan city.
According to the study, 51 per cent of Toronto’s population is foreign born, and some 230 different nationalities live in the city.
Many Toronto residents and community groups have been very supportive and welcoming to the new Torontonians and have provided monetary, material and social support.
“OCASI has the experience and reach to implement an effective educational campaign,” said Debbie Douglas, Executive Director of OCASI.
“It is important that Torontonians from all walks of life take responsibility, for not only welcoming refugees, but also examining assumptions and stereotypes they may hold about Muslims, racialized communities, refugees in general, and refugees from the Middle East and Africa in particular.
“We hope this campaign will start to shift some of people’s erroneous and harmful assumptions,” stressed Douglas.
“Toronto is one of the most diverse cities in the world ─ this diversity contributes to our strength,” said Councillor Joe Mihevc, Toronto’s Newcomer Co- Advocate. “Our goal with this campaign is to get people thinking, talking and challenging the assumptions they may be making about others, not just new Torontonians.”
The overarching long-term goal of the campaign is to create a Toronto that says “No” to all forms of discrimination and racism.
Muslims are the fastest growing religious community in Canada, according to the country’s statistical agency, Statistics Canada.
Canada’s Muslim population increased by 82 percent over the past decade – from about 579,000 in 2001 to more than 1 million in 2011.
Muslims represent 3.2 percent of Canada’s total population.