ontario news watch

More funding, laws can stop anti-Muslim online hate from causing violence: senators

OTTAWA — A Senate committee says anti-Muslim hate needs to be met with the creation of new criminal offences, more education and less bias in federal tax audits.

A report by the upper chamber’s human-rights committee says Islamophobia is being spread online and over the airwaves, and argues this is contributing to a rise in documented hate crimes against Muslims.

Committee head Sen. Salma Ataullahjan says communities across the country have experienced incidents that seem to violate criminal laws but are not prosecuted.

The senators say they’d like to see ramped-up efforts to weed out bias within the Canada Revenue Agency, following audits of Muslim charities that advocates argued were excessive.

Ataullahjan also says the government’s special representative on combating Islamophobia needs a budget beyond the $5.6 million over five years that was allocated in January, saying there is a clear need for better public education.

The committee says it wants federal human-rights bodies to be able to handle complaints of online hate, and says a federal hotline should be established so people can report hate-motivated crimes.

“Islamophobia is an acute threat to Canadian Muslims and urgent action is needed,” Ataullahjan said at a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday.

“We must commit to building a more inclusive country and to better promoting our Muslim relatives and friends, neighbours and colleagues.”

To do that, she said, the public needs better education, as well as media that do not embolden prejudicial attitudes.

“At its core, Islamophobia is rooted in damaging stereotypes and misinformation about Muslims, which often stem from mischaracterization of religious Islamic concepts.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 2, 2023.

The Canadian Press