In recent decades, ordinary people identifying as Muslims have increasingly been caricatured, feared, attacked, vilified and demonized in popular culture and media, political discourse, and everyday life. This inequitable treatment is rooted in historic structural and institutional racism and discrimination and began well before the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States of America, but intensified amidst the tightening of national security laws and anti-terrorism measures in the wake of these events. Over the past decade, political movements and parties carrying the banner of hate towards Muslims have proliferated, emerging in new regions, in new forms, and with a new determination and menace towards Muslim people.
Islamophobia is expressed with varying levels of intensity in different countries, and political discourse in Canada is not a carbon copy of the United States or any other country.1 But it would be profoundly mistaken and dangerously complacent to think that these forces are not prevalent in Canada and growing. Racism toward Muslims is among the most virulent, pervasive and violent expressions of group hatred evident in Canada today. On January 27, 2017, this hatred exploded in the mass murder of six worshippers in a Québec City mosque, shattering lives, families and an entire community. Yet this act of terrorism was not the only destructive eruption of a widespread, ongoing antagonism toward people who identify as Muslim as well as those who are perceived to be Muslim.
Where antipathy toward Muslims stops short of violent hatred, Canadian public opinion research finds exceptional hostility and suspicion toward Muslims among a significant proportion of the population. Right-wing groups have stoked fear and opposition to irregular migration and the Government of Canada’s decision to resettle 40,000 Syrian refugees in Canada between November 2015 and March 2016, an act of humanitarianism and responsible internationalism that a majority of Canadians take pride in and support. A December 2018 public opinion survey found that no fewer than one in four respondents feel Canada would be better off with no Muslims, and more than one in five feel the country would be better off if it was more white.
This report argues that Canada’s unions and working people should view this development as deeply alarming, threatening, and urgently in need of a response.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Challenging Islamophobia - 2
Islamophobia is a Workers’ Issue - 6
Defining Islamophobia - 10
Understanding Islamophobia: Causes and Effects - 14
Socio-Economic Dislocation and the Rise of the Far-Right - 16
Muslims in Canada Today - 18
Work and Income - 22
Attitudes in Canada Toward Muslim People - 24
Discrimination and Violence Experienced by Muslims in Canada - 26
Gendered Islamophobia - 30
Workplace Discrimination Against Muslims - 32
Confronting Islamophobia in Canada - 36
Conclusion - 40
Recommendations - 44