Tragedy in Quebec

Québec – where the melted wax of hundreds of burning candles cascaded down a snow bank dotted with flowers and notes of condolence. Montréal, where hands held up messages of support that were partly obscured by wisps of their breath mingling in the frigid air. Toronto, where candlelight glistened off tearful faces framed with toques and scarves, sometimes pulled over hijabs. For one rare moment in this vast and diverse country, Canadians everywhere came together to assert their unity in the face of an attack that sought to tear them apart.

A Liberal backbencher who introduced an anti-Islamophobia motion that simultaneously passed the Ontario legislature Thursday says, notwithstanding all-party support, she has received racist backlash.

The movement from Nathalie Des Rosiers called on the legislature to “stand against all forms of hatred, hostility, prejudice, racism and intolerance,” reproach a “growing tide of anti-Muslim rhetoric and sentiments” and condemn all forms of Islamophobia.

It passed as the federal government weighs a similar motion that has sparked controversy in the House of Commons and beyond.

Des Rosiers introduced the provincial motion December 1st  in response to incidents in her Ottawa-Vanier riding such as anti-Muslim graffiti, and young women wearing hijabs who were spat on, she said. It took on extra urgency after six men were shot to death at a mosque in Quebec, she said.

“You don’t want discrimination to become internalized, for people to stop seeing themselves as full citizens, as having the ability to contribute fully in a society, and that’s the reason you need to denounce hatred and discrimination,” Des Rosiers said.

This is the familiar script of tragedy. People die. People grieve. People forget. And then, sometimes, people remember again, belatedly realizing that the tragedy was an early sign of a troubling trend when a similar incident occurs years later.

Mixed with religious illiteracy, largely destructive media portrayals of Muslims, and the clichéd ways Muslims have been considered previously. Think of the depictions of Muslims as exotic and robed others dwelling in the desert, as bedeviling Bedouins, living in a world of heat and harems, this painful combination has overflowed into a stream of general hostility toward Muslim Americans and, sometimes, violent attacks.

Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown said Ontario’s legislature “unequivocally opposes Islamophobia.”

“Islamophobia is real and we have to condemn it unreservedly,” he said.

No matter the color of your skin, which part of the world you come from, what language you speak, whether you attend a mosque on Friday, a synagogue on a Saturday or church on a Sunday, every distinct element of who we are as a people comes together to form this beautiful mosaic that is Canada.

“To the more than one million Canadians who profess the Muslim faith, I want to say directly, we are with you,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said. “Thirty-six million hearts are breaking with yours. Know that we value you. You enrich our country in immeasurable ways, this is your home.”

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