People attend a prayer vigil outside a mosque in London, Ontario, June 8, 2021, after four members of a Muslim family were killed. CNS photo/Carlos Osorio, Reuters

Editorial: Crush hatred now

By 
  • June 17, 2021

Racism, Pope Francis said, is “a virus that quickly mutates and, instead of disappearing, goes into hiding, and lurks in waiting.”

In case anyone thinks it doesn’t lurk in Canada, too, think again and look around. As much as we like to see our nation as multicultural and a welcoming land for all, we know there exists an underbelly of evil that no one can afford to ignore or, most of all, address.

We have seen it most recently in the horrific slaughter of four members of a Muslim family in London, Ont. We have seen it in our common history, exposed again in the discovery of 215 Indigenous children buried at a former Catholic residential school, and in the evidence of anti-Black racism in our schools and institutions.

Racism does indeed live here, systemic and alive, eating away at our fundamental freedoms of religion and expression. Our government, our churches — all of us — have the responsibility to crush hatred wherever it lurks, in all its ugly forms.

It is not an exaggeration to say our country’s future depends on it. According to demographic projections, by 2036 more than a third of Canadians will be categorized as members of a visible minority. Up to 16 per cent will belong to non-Christian religions. Over half of Canada’s immigrants will be from Asia.

We have to be much more than a “tolerant” society; we must embrace our diversity to make us a better people.

Sadly, statistics also show we have a long way to go. Police-reported hate crimes — a notoriously under-reported number — have been creeping up. Crimes motivated by hatred of a race went up 10 per cent between 2018 and 2019. Religion-based hate crimes were down overall, but those against Muslims were up nine per cent. The Statistics Canada report also noted that, in the wake of the pandemic, visible minorities surveyed reported “feeling less safe” than other Canadians.

The numbers are disturbing, but do not come close to portraying the very human toll that hatred takes on a family, a community, a country.

In London, Ont., that toll is in the faces of the Muslim family who had been standouts in their community since coming to Canada from Pakistan in 2007 and who were so heartlessly killed while out on a walk: Salam Afzaal, 46, who worked as a physiotherapist in long-term care homes; his 74-year-old mother; his wife Madiha Salman, 44, who was working toward her engineering PhD and was a volunteer at the mosque; and 15-year-old daughter Yumna. Nine-year-old Fayez survives, his whole world shattered in an instant.

What kind of Canada will Fayez grow up in? Will it be one where he is free of racial injustice, of the evils of Islamophobia, free to practice his faith without fear or intimidation?

We need a national strategy — urgently — that targets racial hatred, that protects religious communities, roots out and eliminates online sources of hate. We need it for Fayez and for all who know the evil virus that lurks in waiting.

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