Are Muslims discriminated against in Canada Since September 2001 ?



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Denise HELLY

chercheure, INRS culture - société
(2004)

“Are Muslims discriminated


against in Canada
Since September 2001 ?”

Un document produit en version numérique par Jean-Marie Tremblay, bénévole,

Professeur associé, Université du Québec à Chicoutimi

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Cette édition électronique a été réalisée par Jean-Marie Tremblay, sociologue, bénévole, professeur associé, Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, à partir de :

Denise Helly

[chercheure, INRS culture - société.]


Are Muslims discriminated against in Canada Since September 2001 ?
In Journal of Canadian Ethnic Studies, Fall 2004, Vol. 36, No. 1, pp. 24-47.

[Autorisation formelle accordée le 14 mai 2014 par l’auteure de diffuser ce texte dans Les Classiques des sciences sociales.]


Courriel : Denise_Helly@UCS.INRS.Ca

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Édition numérique réalisée le 3 juillet 2014 à Chicoutimi, Ville de Saguenay, Québec.

Denise Helly

Chercheure, INRS culture - société

“Are Muslims discriminated against
in Canada Since September 2001 ?.”

In Journal of Canadian Ethnic Studies, Fall 2004, Vol. 36, No. 1, pp. 24-47.

Content


Abstract / Résumé

Introduction
1. Discrimination and the right to equality

2. Direct discrimination : denial of basic rights and freedoms


2.1. By individuals
2.1.1. Hate Crimes

2.1.2. Labour market and working place

2.1.3. School
2.2. By government organizations and their agents
2.2.1. Ethnic profiling and attacks on freedoms
3. Indirect discrimination
3.1. Systemic discrimination

3.2. Reasonable accommodation


4. "Usual" discrimination
4.1. Attitudes

4.2. Media coverage

4.3. Education

4.4. Conflicts around places of worship


5. The Foundation of negative stereotypes
Conclusion

References

Denise Helly

Chercheure, INRS culture - société
Are Muslims discriminated against

in Canada Since September 2001 ?” 1

In Journal of Canadian Ethnic Studies, Fall 2004, Vol. 36, No. 1, pp. 24-47.

ABSTRACT
TOC

Following the terrorist acts in the United States in September 2001, hostility towards Muslims increased in North America and Europe. This article describes the different forms of discrimination suffered by Muslims in Canada inasmuch as the data gathered during and before the last two years allow it. It also attempts to describe the main factors underlying the hostility towards Muslims in Canada and how these factors could be peculiar to the Canadian society, where the State proclaims itself to be the only multicultural State in the West and one of the most respectful of immigrants and cultural minorities' rights.

RÉSUMÉ


À la suite des attentats terroristes aux États-Unis en septembre 2001, les actes hostiles se sont multipliés à l'égard des personnes de confession musulmane dans les sociétés occidentales. Cet article retrace les diverses formes de discrimination subies par les musulmans au Canada autant que le permettent les données compilées avant et après les événements de septembre 2001. II tente aussi de repérer les fondements de cette discrimination qui s'avéreraient propres au Canada, un pays dont l'État se proclame le seul État multiculturel au monde et parmi les plus respectueux des droits des immigrés et de leurs descendants.

INTRODUCTION


TOC

According to the Multiculturalism Act (1988), "The Government of Canada recognizes the diversity of Canadians as regards race, national or ethnic origin, colour and religion as a fundamental characteristic of Canadian society and is committed to a policy of multiculturalism". Therefore discrimination against Muslims is a subject of interest in Canada since the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. Islam is a new phenomenon in Canada, it became part of the public debates during the 1990's. In 1994, students wearing the hijab were expelled from some schools in Quebec, and since 1996 data have been published which showed the growth of the Muslim population. According to the 2001 census data, the Muslim population numbered 579,000 persons, from 253,000 in 1991. The majority live in the Toronto area where people of Pakistani origin form the largest group, and Montreal is the second largest place of concentration. 120,000 Muslims live there, mostly from Arab origin.

This article has four objectives : to describe the discrimination suffered by Muslims in Canada, to assess any increase since September 2001, to define the reasons of this hostility, and to determine its eventual specificity. The fulfillment of these objectives requires the specification of the definitions of discrimination including those provided in Canadian legislation.

1. Discrimination and the right to equality



TOC

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982) and other provincial Charters of Rights and Freedoms 2 protect fundamental freedoms (of conscience, religion, thought, opinion, expression, peaceful assembly, association, defense) and basic human rights (to life, security, privacy, dignity, non-harassment, presumption of innocence). They prohibit discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental and physical disability. The right to equality protected by these documents is fourfold : equality before the law, equality in the application of the law, equality of protection by the law and equal benefit of the law. The concept of equal benefit of the law aims at countering a formal conception of equality as an identical treatment of all by the law can cause a serious inequality. It is a Canadian principle that the respect of true equality often requires that distinctions be made (Crepeau, 1994).

In its 1989 unprecedented judgment 3, the Supreme Court defined discrimination as "distinction, whether intentional or not, based on motives related to the personal characteristics of an individual or a group of individuals, which impose on this individual or group burdens, obligations or disadvantages not imposed on others, or prevent or restrict the access to the possibilities, benefits and advantages offered to other members of society". Discrimination is defined as the denial of equality based on an unlawful criterion of distinction, and can be either direct or indirect.

Direct discrimination occurs when one or more of personal characteristics based on an unlawful criterion are explicitly applied to deny a right or a freedom. Indirect discrimination occurs when a measure produces an uneven effect for a group or a person identified by a similar unlawful criterion (physical characteristics, cultural origin, age, gender, religion, handicap), although the measure's author did not explicitly aim for this effect (Bosset, 1989 ; Ledoyen, 1992). The example that is cited most often is the weight or size requirement to become a police officer or a fireman. In practice, these requirements exclude members of groups generally lacking the required weight and size.

One also speaks of systemic discrimination when inequalities between groups of people are not ascribable to an identifiable factor but seem to be linked to a number of factors, present and/or past. Such is the under representation of groups of people in certain occupations compared to the members of charter groups, such as the Canadians of British or French Canadian ancestry. This fact raises some questions. Is it due to discriminatory, voluntary or involuntary, practices, or to characteristics recognized as sources of economic differentiation (schooling level, work experience, knowledge of the official languages) ? In Canada, the under representation of members of "visible minorities" in public office was recognized as part of past and present discriminatory practices, and the Employment Equity Act was passed in 1986.

Discrimination can also be distinguished according to its source. Institutionalized discrimination occurs when public laws and measures intentionally exclude some people from the enjoyment of a right recognized to others. This denial of rights or freedoms, for example, existed from 1908 till the 1960's when quotas for immigrants from Middle-Eastern and "Asian" countries were applied.

Lastly, we can speak of veiled (Kunz, Milan et Schetagne, 2001), usual (Ledoyen, 1992) or voluntary discrimination (McAndrew et Potvin, 1996) to refer to attitudes or private practices which, based on an unlawful criterion, lead to the exclusion of people from spheres of daily social life. These practices are difficult to prove, poorly documented and quantified, and seldom result in complaints. Nevertheless, their effects are manifested in different ways such as the under representation of members of certain ethno-cultural groups in particular neighbourhoods, associations, clubs and social networks of other groups (networks of colleagues, neighbours, friends ; intermarriages).

In the case of people of Muslim heritage, these various forms of discrimination can be demonstrated in some fields but are difficult to prove in others.

2. Direct discrimination :
denial of basic rights and freedoms

2.1. By individuals

2.1.1. Hate Crimes

TOC

Hostile acts against an individual or a group based on a personal attribute, such as public insults, incitement for hatred, physical violence, and attack on property are infringements of the rights to dignity, safety, integrity and the peaceful enjoyment of property 4. This form of discrimination was little documented during the 1991 Gulf War (Abu-Laban and Abu-Laban, 1991 : 124-126) and after. After September 11th 2001 ethnic and human rights organizations started to monitor it more systematically as hate crimes multiplied, and as fear and dejection led to a number of emergency calls to these organizations by people anxious to know how to ensure their personal security. Muslims feared to be attacked because of their religious and cultural practices (clothing, beard, headers), their attending Muslim worship places and schools, or their taking leaves of absence during religious holidays.

The Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC) figures indicate a 1600% increase in hate crimes against Muslim individuals or places from September 2001 to September 2002 (Media release, March 10, 2003). The Congress had received 11 complaints related to such crimes the year preceding the September 2001 attacks, but this figure increased to 173 the following year. In the United States, the 2001 Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) report indicates the same 1600% increase in hate crimes against people perceived as Muslims : 28 in 2000, and 481 in 2001 including 3 murders and 35 arson cases (Abdelkarim, 2003 : 51). The Toronto Police Service Hate Crime Unit (2001 : 8, 11, 13, 22) noted a 66% increase in hostile acts in 2001, 90% of the increase related to the terrorist attacks against the United States, (that is 121 of the 338 hate crimes committed during the year, mainly between September and October 2001). Of these 121 acts, 57 targeted specifically Muslims or Islam 5. In comparison, in 2001, 58 hate crimes were counted against people from Jewish origin, 53 against "Blacks" and 24 against homosexuals. And only one hate crime towards a person identified as Muslim had been recorded, in 2000. The police departments of three other Canadian cities also reported an outbreak of hate crimes from September till the end of December 2001, all connected to the terrorist attacks : 40 in Montreal, 24 in Calgary and 44 in Ottawa (Hussain, 2002 : 23). Moreover, if reports had been rare before September 2001, between September 11 and November 15, 2001, the Canadian chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations was advised of 110 incidents, including 10 death threats, 10 hate messages, 33 verbal aggressions and 13 assault and battery incidents (CAIR-CAN, Press release, November 20th 2001).

However, the statistics related to verbal harassment, death threats, physical attacks and hate crimes remain vague for several reasons. These acts seldom lead to complaints by the victims or reports by their witnesses. This fact is known. According to the latest investigation on this matter, carried out in 2002 in France, only 48% of the French polled declared they were ready to report a racist behavior to the police (Zappi, 2003). In the United States, whereas the FBI reports 481 hate crimes against Muslims in 2001, 1,700 were reported to the CAIR-U.S. chapter from September 2001 to February 2002 (Abdelkarim, 2003). During discussion groups organized by the Canadian Council of Muslim Women and attended by 181 women, participants reported 40 cases of threatening or insulting phone calls, insults on the street, vandalism, assault and battery, of which 2 were reported to the police (Hussain, 2002 : 23). In Montreal, between September 11 and 20, 2001, police recorded a dozen complaints for verbal harassment and 83 hate events between September 2001 and September 2002 (Taillefer, 2002), whereas, according to testimonies gathered by community organizations, Muslims or Middle Eastern immigrants suffered more insults in public venues such as the street, public transit or the work place. Besides Canadian Muslims not complaining to the authorities, one factor plays its role. Muslim community consolidation is still weak in spite of the multitude of religious and secular associations of various vocations, and the two pan-Canadian organizations that document the infringements of Muslims' rights and freedoms, CAIR-CAN and the Canadian Islamic Congress, have little means. Another factor explains the inaccuracy of the statistics. Some Canadian police services do not record hate crimes (Halifax), or do not record the ethno-cultural origin of the victims (Windsor) or their religion (Hamilton 6, Calgary, Waterloo, Edmonton). The categories used to identify the victims or to classify the hate crimes also vary. For example, the Toronto Police Hate Crime Unit which exists since 1993, jointly uses the categories of Muslim, Pakistani, Middle Easterner, Somali, Arab and East Indian. This makes it difficult to know if religion, national or cultural origin, or physical characteristics are the bases of hate crimes. The same unit does not include insults in the street as hate crimes, whereas Muslim organizations and the Jewish B'nai Brith (The Gazette, 2003) include them.

Attacks against places of Muslim worship, which did not exist before, increased also sharply after September 11th. According to CAIR-CAN, 12 such attacks occurred across Canada from September 11 to November 15, 2001 (Hussain, 2002 : 14), and according to testimonies of 181 women living in various Canadian cities, at least an attack took place against a place of worship in each Canadian city between September 2001 and June 2002 (Hussain, 2002 : 15) ; 16 were bomb attacks. A police presence was assured for only a few days or weeks after the attacks in front of the important Muslim places of worship in the country for Friday prayers, as well as in front of Muslim schools.

In Canada as in Western European countries (Diene, 2003 : 3), hate crimes towards people of Muslim heritage decreased in 2002 and thereafter. The Toronto Police Hate Crime Unit (2002 : 10 and 13) recorded only 10 such crimes in 2002 against "Muslims", to which 15 crimes against "Pakistani", "Afghan", "Palestinian", "Mddle-Easterners" and "Arab" could be added. However, attacks against worship places continued.

According to Canadian social workers in the field of immigration, the decrease in hostile acts in 2002 and after is explained by the experience of the Canadian municipal, school and police authorities in the management of inter-ethnic conflicts along with the network of relations existing between these authorities, public organizations and NGO's in the field of ethnic relations. Examples of this practice are often cited. In the major Canadian cities, police authorities have a crisis management unit composed of representatives from different ethnic backgrounds. This bond proved to be useful at times of violent incidents. For example, when a Muslim adolescent was physically assaulted by young people in September 2001 in Ottawa, municipal bodies and community organizations condemned the attack and rallied public opinion, stopping, it is believed, any replication of such acts. In contrast, when a Sikh temple, apparently mistaken for a mosque, was totally burned in Hamilton (Ontario), relations between ethnic groups and the authorities deteriorated because of the lack of experience in inter-ethnic conflicts and of contacts between police authorities and ethnic communities. A hate crimes unit was established.

One can observe that, in Canada, hostile acts targeting Muslims took more the form of insults, threats and attacks of places of worship than of assault and battery or physical aggressions. Two aggressions were violent : one against a Pakistani immigrant family beaten in a Montreal park in the spring of 2002, and the very brutal incident against a teenager who was severely wounded in Ottawa in September 2001. In both cases, youth of European origin were involved.

According to the United Nations' special report (Diene, 2003 : 2, 4), hostility against Arabs and Muslims took different forms in different countries. There took more the form of attacks against people in the United Kingdom and Germany, particularly against women wearing the hijab, of an escalation of conflicts on various issues between "Muslims" and the rest of the population in Denmark, of attacks against worship places in the Netherlands (90 from September 11 till October 2, 2001 according to the Association of Anti-discrimination Centers) and in Australia, of acts of malice in France (169 declared in a 2002 of which a third were in the north and in Ile-de-France, Zappi, 2003), and of verbal harassment and physical attacks against Muslim individuals in the United States.

2.1.2. Labour market and working place



TOC

No extensive national data on any rise in the discrimination suffered at work by people of Muslim heritage since September 2001 are available. No past or present study distinguishes the Middle Eastern and South Asian groups (notably the Pakistani group) in its presentation of data on discrimination at work. According to the Ethnic Diversity Survey, 64% of the members of visible minorities report discrimination or unfair treatment at work, but no data according to ethnic origin or religion is yet available. Nevertheless, investigations in Quebec described the obstacles and disadvantages suffered by people of Muslim heritage in the province.

In the spring of 2001, questionnaires on discrimination in hiring visible minorities were sent to 197 employers in Quebec city, yet only 19 responded 7 and a third (35%) declared that they refused to employ an « Arab » or a person from the Maghreb (Lubuto Mutoo, 2001). After September 2001, some Quebec NGOs committed to the integration of minorities in the labour market received calls from employers asking them not to refer « Arabs » (Bouchard et ah, 2002 : 10), and, significantly perhaps, the Directeur de l'État civil in Quebec mentioned a « phenomenal » increase in « requests by Muslims » to change their names as of September 2001 {idem). According to another recent study (Tadlaoui, 2002 : 20), three categories of people experience particular difficulties finding jobs : « Blacks, people of Arab origin and 'visible' Muslims ». Discrimination takes the form of refusal to take into consideration the resumes of people from Arab origin or Islamic faith under the pretext that they do not take part in the life of the company and that their habits are too distant from those considered Quebec ones. Some job applicants were also excluded because of their French accent, « bad attitudes » during the interview, a « badly written » C.V. or a negative perception of their cultural or racial group by customers in the case of sales departments. Another handicap for Muslims and members of other visible minorities to gain employment is more difficult to grasp, yet it is real. They do not belong to employment networks. This is significant given the fact that approximately 80% of jobs are not posted for the general public. Employers' practice of recruiting within the networks they know is described as "cloning" (Luboto Mutoo, 2001). This practice is often due to the preoccupation of saving time and money which ethnocentrism, racism or xenophobia accentuate. In addition, discrimination at work manifested itself in the form of threats and offensive comments against signs related to Islam (hijab, clothing, beard), of dismissals for expressing a political opinion (generally on a question relating to the Middle-East) or refusing to remove a clothing item (hijab) and of unfounded allegations on the part of colleagues (Lubuto Mutoo, 2001). These forms of discrimination are substantiated by Muslim immigrants' testimonies in other Canadian cities (Bel Hassen, 2002 : 12 ; Toronto Star, 2002 8).

Nevertheless, these data do not allow for any conclusion about a rise of direct discrimination against Canadian Muslims on the labor market or at work. But, it should be recalled that little documentation exists about similar cases of discrimination. Complaints on the matter are rare, and the reasons given for a refusal to hire or a dismissal of members of cultural or racial minority groups are generally covered with other pretexts so that one can only guess the true reasons. Another denial of an economic right has been noted since September 2001. People named Osama had their banking accounts unjustly frozen or some of their colleagues try to get them dismissed. A documentary in production details these experiences. Entitled "Being Osama", it is financed in part by a public Quebec organization (SODEC) and should be broadcast by the main Canadian TV networks, CBC, CTV, Global, and by Al Jazeera (Montgomery, 2003).

2.1.3. School

TOC

Prior to September 2001, the most numerous incidents concerning the status of Islam at school occurred in Quebec. In 1988, a parents'committee in a Montreal school rejected an Arabic class as-a-second language course, despite the existence of a program by the Ministry of Education of Quebec for this purpose. Fifty-two hundred pupils were benefiting from it at the time. The arguments used by opponents revealed the prevalence of an Arab stereotype which was becoming a Muslim one : "The teaching of Arabic is only the first step of a broader strategy, then it will be the Koran" ; "The boys are already macho as it is, what will one teach in this course ?" ; "Arabs should remain in their homeland, we must defend our quality of life, our values vis-à-vis them". The fact that the Arabic-speaking parents who requested the course were largely Christians and educated mothers, was ignored by the parents'committee or else was seen as a strategy in order to hide real intentions ("They hide behind Christians and women, but one should not be misled") (McAndrew, 2002 : 137). The school administration created the course.

A similar incident occurred in another Montreal school in March 1991, when Muslim parents asked for the teaching of Muslim morals as allowed by article 5 of the 1988 Law on Public Education and article 41 of the Quebec Charter of Rights. In this case, there was no solution because of the opposition of parents from other faiths (Proulx, 1994). In 1994-95, twelve pupils wearing the headscarf made newspaper headlines. Once again, "slippages and stereotyped presentations of the Muslim community abounded, in particular in the discourse originating from the civil society (letters and phone-in programs, positions of teachers' groups, and grass-roots feminists or nationalists)" (McAndrew, 2002 : 134 ; our translation). Islam and often the Quebec Muslim community were presented as a threat to democracy and equality of men and women, and Islam was implicitly, if not openly, compared to fundamentalism and terrorism (McAndrew, 2001 : 139). After six months of public controversy by feminist 9, nationalist (Lenk, 2000) and pro-laicite (Ciceri, 1999) movements, the Commission des droits et libertes de la personne gave an opinion in 1995 : similar use must be allowed for fear of infringing on the rights of the girls, and the public dispute ended.

Contrary to expectations, racist incidents between pupils or between pupils and school personnel were rare following September 2001 attacks and were quickly controlled. Measures were taken as of the week of the attacks and during the following weeks. In Montreal, the police established contacts with representatives of Muslim organizations and presentations about the "Arab community" were made to the municipal police, to the ethnic-community specialists at schools and to school directors. Post-traumatic stress management teams were also made available to the Montreal-area schools, and spaces open in these schools and some universities for pupils and professors involved in incidents (Duchesne, 2001). Similar measures and their impact remain to be documented in other Canadian schools.

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