Media reports that accused killer of Afzaal family was motivated by Christchurch terrorist will raise fear and anxiety among vulnerable communities and underscores need for government action
Toronto, November 10, 2021 -- Recent media reports that the man who killed four members of the Afzaal family last June was motivated by the terrorist attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand which targeted Muslim worshippers will raise further fear and anxiety around the dangers of Islamophobia here at home.
“These are not isolated incidents, but point to deep pockets of Islamophobia and white supremacy that exist within our communities and are putting people’s lives at risk,” said Mohammed Hashim, Executive Director of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CRRF). “With every year that passes, we see more and more physical and verbal assaults targeting Muslims and racialized Canadians. The killings in London, Toronto, and Quebec City of Canadian Muslims over the past five years are blaring alarms that we must respond to hate with more than words and symbolic gestures.”
Between 2019 and 2020, Statistics Canada stated that police-reported racially or ethnically crime spiked by 80 percent. This figure represents only the number of officially reported racially motivated hate crimes. Statistics Canada estimates that over 220,000 hate crimes were self-reported, meaning less than one percent of perceived hate crimes were reported to police in 2019.
Whether Islamophobia, anti-Asian, anti-Black, antisemitic or anti-Indigenous sentiment, the common platform for such views is often social media. Its role as a conduit for the rapid spread of racial and ethnic hatred is of grave concern to most Canadians. Recently, a poll for X University’s CyberSecure Policy Exchange found that one in three Canadian residents came across harmful content at least weekly, including hate speech and violent material and that racialized Canadians are 50 percent more likely than non-racialized Canadians to encounter racist and hateful content.
According to an Abacus poll commissioned by CRRF earlier this year, 78 percent of Canadians are concerned about the spread of hate speech online – with young people aged between 18 and 29 being far more likely to have experienced online hate than other Canadians.
Since youth are among the largest share of the population to use and consume social media content, they are also particularly vulnerable to being influenced by hate-filled social media posts. Between 2010 and 2019, nearly one-quarter of hate crimes were committed by youth between 12 and 17. The 2019 Christchurch massacre was live-streamed on Facebook—traumatizing millions of people around the globe and giving impetus to those wanting to take their bigotry to deadly levels.
The CRRF is calling on all levels of government and law enforcement to redouble their efforts to address and act on the issue of online harms and to centre the voices of communities most likely to become the targets of racially motivated attacks.
School administrators and educators have a vital role to play too. Giving young people a safe space to report racially motivated cyberbullying, threats, and physical attacks, and taking adequate measures to address this is an immense step in reducing online harms. Furthermore, educators must be equipped to address media literacy and white supremacist ideologies found online.
“Hate isn't just a feeling—it is a matter of life and death. It should be treated as an emergency crisis,” added Hashim. “This crisis of hate that can be unfurled anonymously with reckless abandon on online platforms and is akin to lighting a match near a tank full of gasoline with millions of people in proximity. We must not stand on the sidelines while flames of hate threaten to consume us. Online hate must be addressed so that those perpetuating hate are not given a match.”
The Canadian Race Relations Foundation was created in 1996 to reaffirm the principles of justice and equality for all in Canada. The mandate of the Foundation is to facilitate throughout Canada the development, sharing, and application of knowledge and expertise to contribute to the elimination of racism and all forms of racial discrimination in Canadian society. To learn more about the work of CRRF, please visit www.crrf-fcrr.ca
To read and download CRRF’s Online Hate Speech & Racism In Canada poll, click the following link: https://www.crrf-fcrr.ca/images/CRRF_OnlineHate_Racism_Jan2021_FINAL.pdf
For media inquiries, please contact:
Director of Communications
Canadian Race Relations Foundation
Ph: 437 533 1104