Islamophobia is on the rise in Canada. Michael Harris writes:
The problem is growing. As reported by the CBC’s Elizabeth Thompson, a soon-to-be released report has found that online activity by right-wing extremists in Canada grew last year. Researchers identified 2,467 right-wing extremist accounts. Those accounts produced 3.2 million pieces of content in 2020, and generated 44 million reactions.
The report, by the U.K.-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue, attributed the rise in hate speech in part to the pandemic.
“The pandemic has… created a febrile environment for radicalization, by ensuring that millions of people have spent more time online. In an environment of heightened anxiety, the situation has been an easy one for extremists to capitalize on. As a result of the pandemic, extremist conspiracy theories have flourished, and minority communities — in particular Asians — have been subject to increased hate crimes and harassment.”
The institute’s researchers found that on one social media site, Telegram, there were 17 groups focused on Canadian affairs. Seven channels hosted white supremacist communities, seven ethnonationalist communities and one hosted an anti-Muslim community.
The anecdotal evidence is everywhere:
In 2017, a horrible event revealed the virulent hatred of Muslims felt by some in this country. A young white nationalist walked into the Islamic Cultural Centre in Quebec City and proceeded to open fire on Muslim worshippers. Alexandre Bissonnette shot six men dead on the spot and seriously wounded six others. He eventually pled guilty to six counts of first-degree murder and six counts of attempted murder.
In June, 20-year-old Nathaniel Veltman was charged with purposely using his specially equipped pickup truck to run down and nearly wipe out an entire Muslim family. They were out for an evening walk in London, Ontario.
Salman Afzaal, his wife Madiha, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna and Salman’s mother, Talat Afzaal, were all killed. The only member of the family to survive the terror attack was nine-year-old Fayez Afzaal, now orphaned.
Just a week after the unspeakable London killings, a masked man attacked two young Muslim women wearing hijabs in St. Albert, Alberta. Their assailant knocked one woman unconscious and threatened the other one with a knife, before scarpering into the woods.
When it comes to racism, we like to think we're less infected than our neighbours to the south. The evidence suggests otherwise.
Image: Wilfred Laurier University