Ontario combatting Islamophobia in schools

THE Ontario government announced on Tuesday that it is investing in a plan to counter Islamophobia and ensure classrooms are free from discrimination. Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, and Kaleed Rasheed, MPP for Mississauga East-Cooksville and Associate Minister of Digital Government, announced that in collaboration with community partners, funding will be provided for initiatives to support Muslim students and families with an emphasis on enhancing resources and training for educators, targeted supports for students, and digital resources for parents.

According to the most up to date data from Statistics Canada, hate crimes have been on the rise in Canada, with a nine-per-cent increase in anti-Muslim attacks in 2019, when compared to the previous year. Tragic and disturbing reports and incidents across Canada and the world over the past years underscore the need for action, the government said.

“It is unacceptable that many Muslim students continue to face discrimination in our schools, on our playgrounds and in communities across this country,” said Lecce. “That is why we are investing and partnering with community leaders — who are leading this effort— to counter racism and better support Ontario’s Muslim students and their families. For Premier Ford, Minister Rasheed and myself, we believe in our core that every student deserves to feel safe, respected, and engaged in learning in inclusive classrooms.”

As part of the Safe Return to Class fund, Ontario’s government is providing $225,000 to the Muslim Association of Canada to create digital resources for educators, students and parents to raise awareness about Islamophobia. These resources will provide information about Islamic practices, values and misconceptions, root causes of Islamophobia and ways to help end Islamophobia, racism and discrimination.

Ontario is also providing $75,000 to the National Council of Canadian Muslims to facilitate outreach and engagement with Muslim parents and families, with a focus on newcomer communities. These engagements will provide information on school supports and will provide culturally relevant resources to enhance well-being for families and help Muslim students prepare for the return to school in September.

Parm Gill, Minister of Multiculturalism and Citizenship, said: “Every student deserves the opportunity to learn and succeed in our schools, free from Islamophobia and any kind of hate or discrimination. Our government is committed to investing in initiatives that support our young people and work to ensure they feel safe and are successful, no matter their background. ”

Rasheed said: “No parent wants their child to experience the pain and humiliation of discrimination at any time, and especially not in the classroom. These initiatives in our schools and communities will help ensure that our students can thrive in an environment free of discrimination, so they can focus on learning and growing. We are sending a strong message that hate speech, bigotry, racism or discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated in Ontario’s public schools and I thank the Minister for taking decisive action in this regard. ”

Mustafa Farooq, CEO, National Council of Canadian Muslims, said: “The National Council of Canadian Muslims welcomes further provincial funding to challenge Islamophobia across the education sector. This is an important first step as we recognize that systemic action and commitment is necessary to support the safety and wellbeing of staff, students and families. ”

Sharaf Sharafeldin, Executive Director of the Muslim Association of Canada, said: “MAC welcomes its partnership with the Ministry of Education to develop and deliver resources to counter Islamophobia through education and awareness for students, parents and educators. The horrific terror attack in London Ontario, that has left Muslim students across the province feeling vulnerable, has made this important initiative even more urgent. The Government of Ontario’s approach to working with community organizations, like MAC, in addressing the challenges of Islamophobia is a step in the right direction. ”