Community & Current Events

5 ways you can make Canada safe and more welcoming for everyone

5 ways you can make Canada safe and more welcoming for everyone

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Community & Current Events

5 ways you can make Canada safe and more welcoming for everyone

Here's how you can contact your elected officials, pull out your wallet and offer emotional support to fight Islamophobia and show Muslim-Canadians that Canada is standing with them.

From the shooting rampage at a Quebec City mosque  to U.S. President Donald Trump's ban on the entry of citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries, to a growing right wing extremist movement in Europe and around the world, it might appear that we're more divided than ever before. But actually, we're not.

If there's one heartening thing about the global political climate, it's that people everywhere are reacting to the seemingly never-ending stream of bad news by coming together. After the shooting at the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec, Canadians of all faiths reached out to the country's Muslim community to offer support and solidarity. Protests, rallies and hashtag campaigns about the values we hold dear—like immigration, women's rights and even the importance of science—are underway here at home, in the United States and abroad. And videos reminding us of what we have in common instead of what sets us apart are all over our newsfeeds. 

It's encouraging, inspiring—and necessary. Yes, we live in Canada, a country that strongly believes in multiculturalism. But that doesn't mean we're perfect. There's still work to be done to combat Islamophobia and anti-minority sentiment. So here are five small but mighty ways you can help make Canada a safer, more welcoming place for everyone.

1. Show up. If there's a rally, march or demonstration planned in your city, attend. Find one close to home with activist Syed Hussan's nation-wide list of upcoming protests and vigils. Going to events like this shows solidarity with the Muslim communities in Canada and the U.S., but perhaps even more importantly, sends a message that inclusiveness is an important issue for Canadians. It makes them harder to ignore—especially for our elected officials.

2. Be a good neighbour. Though hate crimes are down in Canada overall, those against Muslim-Canadians more than doubled between 2012 and 2014. A Montreal mosque was vandalized on the day of the first funeral from the victims of the Quebec City mosque shooting. Look out for the Muslim-Canadians in your community—and if you see someone being targeted, speak up. A Parisian illustrator has even made a handy guide to show bystanders what to do if they witness Islamophopic harassment.

3. Donate. The Centre Culturel Islamique De Québec has a fund dedicated to helping the victims' families. The National Council of Canadian Muslims is another organization worth supporting. You can also donate to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, or one of its provincial sister organizations, to help fund "litigation, civil liberties monitoring/research and advocacy."  

4. Use your voice. As citizens, we have more power than we sometimes think we do. Our municipal, provincial and federal representatives have pledged to present our interests, so if we want to prevent the rise of Islamophobia in Canada, we have to let them know that we won't stand for it. A phone call is the most effective form of communication, but letters and emails are good, too. 

When it comes to what to say, you can ask your Member of Parliament to fight for the rights and freedoms of those in Canada and our neighbours, but it might be more effective to be specific. For example, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association recommends reaching out about the impact of Trump's travel and immigration ban.They've even posted a sample script that you can use in your phone calls or emails. The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association also recommends writing to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale about intelligence sharing between Canada and the U.S., to make sure our government isn't inadvertently contributing to torture. 

When calling provincial representatives focus on housing, education (more inclusive curricula, for example) and health (making sure refugees have access to the healthcare they're entitled to, and restoring budget for healthcare that's no longer funded, like psychotherapy for those who have been tortured). 

On a municipal level, encourage your mayor to communicate his or her support for refugee resettlement to the federal Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, or ask councillors to present a motion to turn your city into a sanctuary city, which would allow undocumented immigrants to access essential services without fear of deportation. Toronto, Hamilton, Ont. and Vancouver are the only Canadian sanctuary cities so far, but Catherine McKenney, an Ottawa city councillor, plans to introduce a motion next week to include the capital. 

To find contact information for your municipal representative, go to your city or town's website for a list of council members. You can find your Member of Provincial Parliament on your province's Legislative Assembly website. And you can search for your MP by postal code on the Parliament of Canada website.

5. Stay informed. This can be a tough one because following the news is often overwhelming, especially right now, and it's important to unplug regularly. But there are a few reasons why it's important not to tune out entirely: first, when we don't know what's going on, we can't effectively fight against it. (And that's likely what people who want to create laws and policies that discriminate against Muslims, other immigrants, or, frankly, any people of colour, are counting on.) Second, there's lots of fake news and alternative facts out there, and it's important to be digitally literate. Media Smarts, a Canadian not-for-profit that advocates for educating kids on what this means, has a good primer.

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5 ways you can make Canada safe and more welcoming for everyone

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