SHAFAQNA -Â Worried about the latest surge of anti-Muslim hate crimes, Canadian Muslim groups have launched a national campaign to combat hatred, educate Canadians about the ramifications of hate crimes and to help find ways to address this phenomenon.
â€œThe federal justice department terms unreported crimes as representing â€˜the dark figureâ€™,â€ said Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), during a news conference on Tuesday, June 9.
â€œCanadians may be reluctant to report crimes for a variety of reasons, including further stigmatization.
â€œOur aim in launching a national hate crime awareness project is to urge Canadian Muslims, as well as fellow Canadians to report hate wherever and whenever it happens so that we can find ways to combat it,â€ Gardee added.
joined by representatives of diverse Canadian communities, the Council unveiled a national hate crime awareness project that includes a social media campaign as well as an online map to track hate crimes and incidents reported across Canada.
â€œOur new interactive online map will capture anti-Muslim activity as soon as it is reported to us or reported publicly in a way that is accessible to the general public, researchers, policy makers, elected officials, and the media,â€ Gardee said.
â€œThis will help inform all Canadians about the need to explore and implement proactive initiatives on national, provincial, and local levels.â€
The new campaign comes as the latest police-reported hate crime data released by Statistics Canada revealed that anti-Muslim hate crimes have increased by approximately 44 percent since 2012.
â€œThis latest data is troubling and may show a trend of growing anti-Muslim hate crimes. Our own data for 2014 shows a further increase so this is clearly an issue that deserves more attention,â€ Amira Elghawaby, human rights coordinator of the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), told OnIslam.net.
While there were 17 per cent fewer hate crime incidents reported to police in Canada in 2013 compared with 2012, the numbers reveal that black populations are still the most frequently targeted in hate crimes, and crimes against Muslims rose last year.
Anti-Muslim hate crimes mark the only category that saw a significant increase.
Statistics Canada acknowledges that even this does not show the full picture.
Studies indicate that hate crimes may be the most under reported type of crime including one study that reported that a full two-thirds of victims surveyed chose not to report the crime to police.
At todayâ€™s press conference, representatives from various communities spoke about rise of the anti-Muslim hate in Canada.
â€œThe NCCMâ€™s hate crime tracking initiative is a welcome advance in our capacity to monitor bias motivated violence wherever it occurs,â€ said Professor Barbara Perry from the University of Ontarioâ€™s Institute of Technology, and one of the few Canadian researchers who has studied anti-Muslim hate.
â€œWe know all too well that very little such victimization is reported to police for a variety of reasons.
â€œBecause of this, our knowledge of the patterns and distribution of anti-Muslim and other forms of violent bigotry has been limited â€“ this tool will begin to remedy this short-coming.
â€œI would like to think it is but one step toward greater attention to the risk to which Muslim communities are exposed.
â€œIt must, however, only be seen as one instrument in a growing toolkit that will include research, resources and policy intended to ensure that our Muslim brothers and sisters are able to live without fear.â€
The Statistics Canada data reveal that the African Canadian community continues to be the primary target of hate crimes, noted Roger Love, Legal Counsel for the African Canadian Legal Clinic.
â€œThe fact that we live in a country where persons of African descent continue to be victims of violent crimes for no other reason but the colour of their skin, is deplorable,â€ said Love.
â€œIn order to alleviate some of the barriers faced by the African Canadian community, all officers and Crown Attorneyâ€™s should receive special training on how to identify, and investigate hate crimes and incidents of anti-Black hate.
â€œAs we move into the cyber age resources devoted to investigating incidents of hate speech or racially motivated harassment online have failed to keep pace with reality.â€
Bernie Farber, human rights advocate and former CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress, echoed a similar opinion.
â€œAs a Canadian Jew who spent much of his adult life fighting hatred, bigotry and discrimination, I am utterly of the view that Canadaâ€™s anti-hate laws used as they have been with care and wisdom creates a valuable and needed â€˜fence of protectionâ€™ for minority groups in this country,â€ Farber said.
â€œAnd it was very much thanks to education initiatives such as we are discussing today that led to stopping the hateful bullying of which our community was a target.
â€œTaking a stand against hateful bullying is difficult. Victims would prefer not to make waves in the hope that the hatemonger will simply go away. Community leaders who should be on the frontline of condemnation all too often choose silence. We must not be victims any longer. Silence can no longer be an option.â€