Statement by Scarborough Centre MP Salma Zahid
I was concerned to read the federal government’s 2018 Public Report on the Terrorism Threat to Canada, which unfairly stigmatizes Canada’s Muslim community and other racialized minority groups with language that is not helpful to uniting Canadians and instead brings suspicion and fear to average Canadians just trying to live their lives.
By using vague and unclear terms such as Islamist, Shia and Sunni extremism, the report falsely gives credence to terrorist groups that claim to be inspired by religion, when nothing could be further from the truth. While many that have sought to commit violence over the years have claimed religious inspiration, the fact is no religion sanctions acts of violence and the use of such terms unfairly maligns its peaceful followers.
It is also disappointing that, while the report does note several egregious examples of right-wing anti-Muslim violence in Canada, it bizarrely downplays the growing risk of right-wing extremism as “sporadic and opportunistic” and “do not usually result in criminal behavior or threats to national security.” A truly unfortunate statement to make as we approach the second anniversary of the shooting at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City by an admitted right-wing, anti-Muslim extremist.
I also note, as have my colleagues, the report categorizes “Sikh extremism” as a current threat to Canada despite the lack of any incidents involving Canadians in over 30 years.
Two years ago, I wrote a column calling for Muslims to be treated as partners in Canada’s national security. There are more than one million Muslims in Canada, and we have often felt unfairly targeted by security agencies and stigmatized as part of these security debates. We have been seen as part of the problem rather than as part of the solution.
Those of us who have chosen to come to Canada and make this our home did so for both the security that all Canadians take for granted and the rights and freedoms that all Canadians cherish. Many of us fled countries where personal liberties are severely limited or even non-existent, and where violence and conflict are daily facts of life.
In other words, we came here to escape extremism and radical ideologies. Yet reports like this, and the language they use, cause all of us to be viewed with suspicion, fear and mistrust. They fuel torqued media headlines and hateful social media memes that unfairly stigmatize an entire community, and puts it at risk.
I urge Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale to look more closely at the language used and conclusions made in this report, and to consider in the future how such language impacts the innocent members of the communities named.