Are Muslims discriminated against in Canada Since September 2001 ?

By government organizations and their agents

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2.2. By government organizations
and their agents

2.2.1. Ethnic profiling and attacks on freedoms


An anti-terrorism law 10 (C-36) was adopted on December 7, 2001 by the Canadian Parliament. It is interesting to note that Canadians have since then expressed little concern about terrorism. According to a survey by Environics Research Group between September 26 and October 11, 2002, 18% identified war as their major concern, 16% environment, 11% famine in the world and 9% terrorism.

Law C-36 led to the modification of 22 existing Canadian laws (Jezequel, 2002) including the criminal code, the protection of personal information, access to information and the request of evidence (which no longer obliges the Crown to provide all elements). It also created criminal offenses : facilitating and inciting terrorist acts 11, affiliation with organizations suspected of being involved in similar acts, financial support of a terrorist entity leading to the seizure of property and goods suspected of being used for terrorist activities. The term "facilitating" is criticized by the Canadian Bar Association because the facilitation of terrorist activities is said criminal even in the absence of any knowledge of these activities by the accused. Moreover, any person (lawyer of the accused) and any organization whose some members could be accused of facilitation, could be charged with the same crime. Besides, Law C-16 (Charities Registration Act) includes the cancellation of the status of charitable organization of any group that finances or is suspected of financing terrorist activities 12.

The law also erodes the protection of freedoms by increasing the powers of the police. The police was given the rights to conduct secret searches, to expand the six-month period of electronic eavesdropping and to listen to a person's overseas communications on a simple decision by the Minister of National Defense and without judicial oversight. The law also gives the police the right to hold people in custody for 72 hours without charge, to conduct inquiries without obligatory warrant and to oblige detainees to undergo interrogation in front of a judge under the penalty of a year's imprisonment, and it allows for the tracking of the air travels of Canadians and for the keeping of the record for six years. The measures pertaining to evidence and custody are to be reviewed after five years. The others are permanent.

Law C-36 erodes the freedoms of all Canadians through procedures that undermine the rights of an accused to remain silent and to know the charges against him/her. But, in fact, it targets directly people of Muslim heritage and has two particular consequences for them. The first is their profiling by the security forces, especially at the borders (Hurst, 2001 ; Makin, 2003). The second is the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and RCMP attempts to collect intelligence from people who are active within the Muslim community or from Muslims who have precarious immigration status (foreign students, asylum seekers whose files are under examination by the authorities). These attempts are justified by the need for intelligence on the possible existence of Islamist networks in Canada, and are extremely harmful for Muslims. They create suspicion in people's minds about an important presence of Islamist extremists in Canada and the Muslim population's failure to report their existence to the authorities. Law C-36 is the most serious infringement on the rights of Canadian Muslims, and is highly criticized by their representatives.

3. Indirect discrimination

3.1. Systemic discrimination


Systemic discrimination against members of ethno-cultural minority groups feeds on various unjust practices : refusal to hire, requirement of higher qualifications or lower salaries for similar qualifications. On average, immigrants are paid lower wages than natives with the same level of schooling 13. According to the 2001 census, in 2000, immigrant males obtained on average an wage of 63.1 cents compared to 1$ for natives with a similar level of schooling. In 1980, the ratio was 71.6 cents for males who immigrated that year. Moreover, male immigrants who have been in Canada for ten years received on average 79.8 cents compared to 1$ by the natives of similar level of schooling. In 1980, the pay rate was equal (1$ for all). Up to that period, immigrants overcame in ten years the handicap of lacking Canadian work experience, an argument used throughout Canada in order to underpay them. In the case of women, the ratio was and still remains even more unfavourable. So, immigrants who have arrived since the 1980s, between them a significant number from Muslim countries suffer from a structural disadvantage.

A study (Pendakur, 2000) shows also that, for same levels of age and schooling, people from non-European origins experience a clear disadvantage on the Canadian job market ; on average their income is lower by 8% compared to people of European origin. Besides, census data show that the percentage of members of visible minorities with a post-secondary diploma is higher than that of other Canadians, but this fact is not reflected in the distribution of occupations. Only the business and engineering sectors show similar rates of employment between natives and immigrants (Kunz, Mian et Schetagne, 2001) and the sectors of computer sciences and advanced technologies are the only real cultural mosaics in term of the personnel composition. However, these data do not allow us to know how people of Muslim heritage experience then and now these disadvantages in the absence of statistical analyses 14 taking into account religion. One cannot either speak about a more or less strong systemic discrimination in their access to jobs in the public sector. All recent immigration groups are under-represented in this sector. According to the 1996 census, 5.9% of federal public office jobs were held by members of "visible minorities" (Working Group, 2000). But the precise situation of people of Muslim heritage in this regard is unknown. The same observation holds in another field where systemic discrimination exist, the housing market.

3.2. Reasonable accommodation


In a 1985 judgment (Ontario Human Rights Commission vs. Simpson Sears Ltd., 1985, 2R.C.S. 536), the Supreme Court defined indirect discrimination as "discrimination through prejudicial effect" and created the obligation of accommodation to counter this effect. The case concerned a Seventh-day Adventist demanding the right to observe the Sabbath without giving up her full-time job at Simpsons Sears Ltd., which had refused her request. The Supreme Court ruled that a compromise had to reduce the discrimination suffered by the employee because of her faith and specified that the solution had to be reasonable, i.e. no undue hardship imposed on the employer, such as an exaggerated financial cost, significant disadvantages, the reduction of safety requirements, a denial of other employees' rights or of collective agreements. In this case, the work schedule could be adjusted.

The spirit of this judgment can apply to other working regulations as well as to other fields, such as regulations related to the offer of services and goods be they private or public. The cases of conflict of cultural norms within a society are indeed frequent. They can relate to the diet of inpatients or prisoners and children placed in foster homes, the provision of worship spaces for minorities in the work place and in schools, medical practices, burial mode, or child punishment which brings into play youth protection and parental authority laws.

The notion of reasonable accommodation imposes itself in Canada under the terms of the legislative text which calls for the promotion of a pluralist and equitable society (Multiculturalism Act, 1988) and of article 27 of the Canadian Charter which states that "The Charter shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians." Contrary to other Western countries, this notion represents a legal obligation and implies two principles. One is paramount : no cultural arrangement can jeopardize a person's rights and freedoms and fundamental laws. The respect of cultural differences can never contravene the basic principle of Canada's legal and political systems, which is the respect for individual rights. No collective cultural right is granted to the ethnic minorities that would enable them to create closed communities, such as the right to separate judicial courts. Cultural relativism is allowed in as much as this fundamental principle is applied. The second principle requires that the accommodations maintain a balance between the rights of the parties, which ones must contribute to updating and applying them. The spirit of any reasonable arrangement is to avoid litigation and reduce cultural inequalities through negotiation. Many religious accommodations have been adopted during the 1980's and 1990's because as the Supreme Court put it in its 1985 judgment : "A tiny inconvenience is the price to pay for freedom of religion in a multicultural society". Here are some Quebec examples which spirit have been followed in other provinces and notably in Toronto. At the Montreal Children Hospital, parents of minority confessions are allowed to bring meals to their hospitalized children, and a manually-opened door has been installed to allow Hassidic Jews to visit patients on the Sabbath ; in public schools a flexible pedagogical day is scheduled so that Orthodox, Coptic and Catholic children could celebrate Easter on their respective dates ; at the Polytechnic school, examinations are held during weekdays for the students of Judaic confession (Conseil des relations interculturelles et de l'immigration, 1993). But other requests gave rise to trials, the most publicized of which were the demand by a Hassidim group to put erouv wire in one district (granted by Quebec Superior Court judgment, June 2001), and a student's demand to carry a Kirpan in public schools (ruled out but the same court, 2004).

In the case of the Muslim population, before the 1980's, an agreement was reached between the City of Montreal and two Muslim organizations for the opening of a Muslim space in two cemeteries and, one of these organizations (Al Islam) was also given the right to celebrate and record marriages. During the 1980' and 1990's, Muslim girls were given the right to wear a more modest uniform during physical education courses and Muslim pupils granted a two-hour period in order to observe Friday congregational prayer. In certain Canadien National units, the work schedule was adjusted to create three free periods per day to allow Muslim employees to pray. In the municipal swimming pools, a three-hour period has been reserved to young Muslims and divided between boys and girls, and in three universities Muslim students given spaces for prayers. But some requests were not granted, such as creating Muslim sections in the cemeteries of cities other than Montreal, the refusal of an employee of the Quebec Provincial Police to translate the recording of a conversation collected through eavesdropping because his religion prohibits denunciation or the refusal of an employee of the Montreal police to give parking tickets for reasons of conscience in name it was repression. And Muslims appear to be more targeted in terms of the frequency and extent of the conflicts around accommodations. As McAndrew (2002 : 138) stated : "The religious prescriptions of Jehovah's Witnesses are more questionable at the level of pupils'success and psycho-social integration and contrary to the school's function of critical education, but they never get the same publicity as those of Muslims" (our translation).

Since September 2001, the situation is characterized in Quebec as in all Canada not as much by a higher number of requests, refusals or acceptances of religious accommodations in favor of Muslims as much as by one new fact, the coverage of these cases by the media The presence of Islam would seem to be a fact that is recognized by Canadian journalists, but what about its representation by the media and the Canadian population ?

4. "Usual" discrimination


"Usual" discrimination always remains difficult to prove because of the lack of proof of the denial of freedoms or basic rights, but facts lead to assume it plays a definitive role.

4.1. Attitudes

One survey conducted across Canada (Angus Reid, 1991) show that the persons of Muslim heritage were victims of unfavourable perceptions before September 2001. Almost all respondents said they feel more comfortable with natives rather than with immigrants, and even less comfortable with the Indo-Pakistani, Sikh, Black, West-Indian, Arab and Muslim groups. In the fall of 2001 (IPSOS-Reid), 82% of Canadians feared that Arabs and Muslims would become the target of prejudices but almost one year after, in July 2002, according to a CROP survey on the religious belief of persons 16 to 35 years old, 76% of Quebec respondents and 55% of other Canadian respondents thought that religions are causes of conflict between peoples, and 17% of the former and 13% of the latter thought that Islam promotes confrontational relations (he Devoir, July 22, 2002). In August 2002, according to another IPSOS-Reid survey, 45% of Quebecers, 37% of Albertans, 33% of Ontarians and 22% of British Columbia residents agreed with the statement : "The September 11 attacks made me more mistrustful of Arabs or Muslims coming from the Middle-East" (people of Middle Eastern origin are mostly established in Quebec and Ontario). In fact, according to a survey conducted by Leger Marketing in September 2002, 33% of Canadian respondents declared they had heard racist comments against Muslims and Arabs.

The September 11 terrorist acts and the measures adopted by the government to control the borders had also a notable effect on the attitudes of Canadians towards immigration. According to a survey by the Association for Canadian Studies in August 2002, 43% of respondents indicated that Canada accepted too many immigrants from Arab countries, 40% from Asian countries, 24% from Africa, 21% from Latin America and 16% from Europe. When respondents feared a future terrorist attack in North America, the percentages increased : 49% wanted a reduction of Arab immigration and 47% of Asian immigration. In November 2002, another survey by Maclean's magazine, Global TV and The Citizen indicated the same trend : 44% of Canadians wanted a reduction of immigration from Muslim countries. The highest percentage was in Quebec : 48% versus 45% in Ontario, 42% in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, 43% in the Maritimes, 39% in British Columbia and 35% in Alberta. The average percentage in favor a reduction of the immigration from Arab countries was 49% a year earlier.

By mid-March 2003, the week the Anglo-American war on Iraq began, a war not favoured by the Canadian government, 70% of 2002 Canadians polled by the Association for Canadian Studies and Environics Research Group "see intolerance towards immigrants and ethnic groups as a serious problem in Canada and 68% harbour concerns over anti-Arab sentiment, 54% worry about anti-Semitism and 55% about an anti-black sentiment. But still 30% felt Arabs project a negative image while 38% felt the same about Aboriginals, 13% about Blacks and 11% about Jews (Jayoush, 2003). Concerning this image of people of Arab origin, no significant difference was notable between provinces.

The "Muslim" negative stereotype appears strong within at least one third of the Canadian public opinion and no significant change from the 1990's or between September 2001 and March 2003 could be asserted. Some Canadian media fed that negative perception, particularly since 2001.

4.2. Media coverage


The increase over the past 20 years of violent events in Muslim countries or involving individuals of Muslim faith gave rise to an abundant media coverage intended for a Western general audience. This is particularly true for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the wars in Lebanon, Bosnia, Kosovo, the Gulf (1991), the Caucasus, Afghanistan, Iraq, the September 2001 attacks and others before or thereafter. Like every other coverage of current events, this coverage tends to omit past and present socio-political analysis of the conflicts (Helly, 2002). Moreover, the coverage reproduces more frequently the Orientalist archetype (Said) of an insurmountable gap between Islam and other monotheist religions, and between the evolution of Western and Islamic cultures and countries.

Canadian media coverage of events concerning or implying countries or people of Muslim heritage since September 2001 constitutes one of the most significant subjects of criticism by Canadian Muslim organizations. The main critique is the constant reference to Islam to qualify positions and political actions. We hear about "Muslim extremists" or "Islamic militants" whereas any religious qualification is omitted when similar positions or actions by people of other religions are treated. In one interview (Weld, 2003), Wahida Valiante, vice-president of the Canadian Islamic Congress, explained : "We never refer to those involved in the Northern Ireland conflict as Catholic terrorists. In dealing with Bosnia and Kosovo, there were Christian and Orthodox terrorists, but they were never called that, though there was much discussion of Muslim Bosnian terrorists".

According to a CAIR-CAN investigation involving 296 Canadian Muslims in 2001, 56% said that Canadian media coverage had become more biased with regard to Islam and Muslims after September 2001 while 13% declared it had improved. In the view of the first group, CBC, The Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail were the most objective media while The National Post, Global Television, The Ottawa Citizen were the most hostile to Islam (Press release, May 9, 2002 ; Alternative Perspective, September 2002). Also, the 181 participants in the discussion groups on the condition of the "Canadian-Muslim women" (Hussain, 2002 : 28) agreed that CBC had presented a balanced information during the events of September 11, 2001, especially through its programs The National and The Passionate Eye.

Since 1998, the Canadian Islamic Congress publishes Anti-Islam in the Media, an annual study of the coverage of eight Canadian newspapers (The Globe and Mail, La Presse, The National Post, The Ottawa Citizen, The Gazette, The Toronto Star, The Toronto Sun, The Winnipeg Free Press). Each study counts the articles containing biased or offensive presentations or terms with regard to Muslims and allots a rating of these terms according to two criteria : 1- their appearance in titles, on the front page and their repetition in the same article ; 2- the newspaper's circulation (CIC, 2002 : 10). On March 23, 2003, the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, a public organization, awarded the Canadian Islamic Congress the prize for excellence for its Anti-Islam in the Media 2002 report.

While in 1999 The National Post was classified as the least-biased newspaper and The Globe and Mail as the most biased 15, since 2000 The National Post is rated as the most hostile daily newspaper towards Islam and Muslims. A renewal of anti-Muslim stereotypes was notable from September 12 through November 28, 2001 in a number of publications : "Negative or biased information on Islam" was found to be 10 times more present than over the previous months in The Toronto Star, 18 times more in The Globe and Mail and 22 times more in The National Post (CIC, 2001). A similar conclusion was drawn from the study of The Vancouver Sun (Enns, 2002). But in the 2002 CIC report, The Globe and Mail, which appeared to eliminate the biased terms over the months, found itself, together with The Winnipeg Free Press, among the least condemned publications by the organization.

The position of The National Post results from its control by a media conglomerate (CanWest Global) whose owners use their editorial authority to post their anti-Muslim positions and support for the Sharon government in Israel. Their newspapers, The Ottawa Citizen, The Gazette and The National Post, hold since 2000 the first three ranks of the most unfavorable newspapers to Muslims and focus more on the rise of anti-Semitism than on the discrimination against Muslims (CIC, 2002 : 13). Nevertheless, The Gazette covered these two subjects in a series of articles in September 2002. As examples of bias or malevolent inconsistency by The National Post, an article on August 15, 2002 : "Attacking Infidels : Terrorists Target the West for only one reason : its religious values", supports its thesis by describing the assassination of 400 people in Algeria during the period of fasting in 2001, and sentences written by George Jonas, the first in September 2001, the second in March 2002 : "From the beginning, Western attempts to draw a distinction between Islamist terrorists and Islam resulted in a lop-sided effort" ; "The terrorist enemy has no armies to send against us ; it has to penetrate our perimeter through fifth columnists "(Elmasry, 2002).

In 2002, the CIC and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) carried out a pilot study on the evening news of three television networks, CTV, Global and CBC, over a period of 60 days. CBC was rated as the network having presented the most negative references to Islam. The coverage by radio stations is not studied yet but some of them do develop anti-Islam stereotypes. On July 8, 2002, Mr. Green declared on CFRA 580 AM, an Ottawa-based station : "North America -democracy- the Christian faith is under attack - not just in North America, but elsewhere around the world" and the threat "comes most exclusively from Muslim men". A complaint was filed with the CRTC by CAIR-CAN.

Researchers (Piche et Djerrahian, 2002) sought to know if the attacks of September 2001 had led Quebec French-speaking journalists to favor a link between terrorism and immigration. They analyzed 78 articles published in La Presse and Le Devoir between September 11 and October 31, 2001 and concluded that, if "the consensus on immigration has been broken after September 11 16, the majority of publications remain on the side of moderation" and they did not deem it obligatory that the fight against terrorism leads to a re-examination of immigration law (p. 82, our translation) because of a counter-argument was often presented, that is the pressure exerted by the United States to conduct such a review. According to Pietrantonio analysis of articles published on September 12, 13, and 15, 2001 in La Presse and Le Devoir (and Liberation as an "echo newspaper") (2002), the attacks were described like as a quasi inevitable consequence of unequal power relationships. In addition, Radio-Canada and RDI networks had a balanced coverage of events in Muslim countries. The coverage by Francophone media seems less offensive and ambiguous than by some Anglophone media which publish data on hate crimes against Muslim as well as articles biased against Muslims or favourable to ethnic profiling.

4.3. Education


School is a place where ideas and representations are transmitted to younger generations, but no extensive study allows to draw conclusions about discrimination against Muslims, except in the case of an analysis of textbooks written during the second half of the 1970's in Quebec (McAndrew, 1985). These Quebec textbooks were produced by private publishers and some chosen by public school boards. Mc Andrew pointed out how they encapsulate the "last legitimate racism". Whereas they spoke about solidarity with Third-world and Black Americans' struggles and portrayed very positively Malcolm X, Allende, Mao Tse Tung and Castro, Arab emancipation struggles were denounced as "radicalism", "anti-Westernism" and even "fanaticism". This discourse was influenced by the 1973 oil crisis and confrontations with Kadhafi. Moreover, Quebec's long-established Arab population was not mentioned and the stereotype of the "TV Arab" prevailed (Shaheen, 1984, 2001) through such images as the rich sheik, dangerous terrorist, uneducated peasant and noble Touareg. This negative image had apparently its effect on some 200 French-speaking CEGEP students who evaluated more positively Anglophones or anglophile ethnic groups (Jews, Germans) and clearly placed Blacks and Arabs at the bottom of their list. Arabs were said to be dishonest, sly, cruel and complaining (McAndrew, 2002 : 135). During the 1980s and thereafter, the textbooks were reformed but the presentation of Muslim did not change much. This situation remains to be documented, as well as in the other provinces school systems.

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