Evidence of meeting #84 for Canadian Heritage in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was discrimination.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Bruce Clemenger  President, Evangelical Fellowship of Canada
Julia Beazley  Director, Public Policy, Evangelical Fellowship of Canada
Frank Huang  National Secretary-General, National Congress of Chinese Canadians
Ali Rizvi  Author, As an Individual
Sergeant David Zackrias  Head, Diversity and Race Relations, Ottawa Police Service

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

That's right. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

My questions will be for...I guess I should be saying Dr. Rizvi. Is that right?

5:10 p.m.

Author, As an Individual

Dr. Ali Rizvi

It is. I don't practise clinical medicine. I haven't practised since 2011, but yes.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Once you get the doctorate, it's there and—

5:10 p.m.

Author, As an Individual

Dr. Ali Rizvi

It's forever.

November 6th, 2017 / 5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

That's right. Even honorary ones should be trumpeted wherever possible, although I know yours is the real deal.

I want to thank you for your balanced presentation.

By way of response to your suggestions as to how to deal with this report that we'll be developing on this motion going forward, I agree 100% with your suggestion that we use terms like “anti-Muslim bigotry” in place of the term “Islamophobia”.

In fact, my colleague David Anderson proposed a motion, which was voted on in the House of Commons 48 hours before the vote on M-103. It specifically recognized “the recent and senseless violent acts at a Quebec City mosque”, and it called on the House to “condemn all forms of systemic racism, religious intolerance, and discrimination of Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus, and other religious communities”.

I agree with your approach. Whether we're discussing other communities or just Muslims, I think that approach is the right one.

You're aware of the fact that Motion M-103 makes reference to petition e-411. Are you aware of that fact?

5:10 p.m.

Author, As an Individual

Dr. Ali Rizvi

Yes, I am aware of it. I don't know a lot of the details of e-411, but I know that this is what was initially proposed in December 2016.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

That's right.

The House endorsed it unanimously. There were fewer than 80 members there, but I was one of those members. At the time, I was focusing on something else that I thought was important. The petition states that the vast majority of the Muslim community in Canada is peaceful and condemns violence, but it also asks the House to, as it puts it, condemn “all forms of Islamophobia”. I am now worried, based on what we've heard in our hearings, that if the term “all forms of Islamophobia” is not clarified, it could be understood to mean all phenomena that anybody sees as Islamophobic, thereby expanding it so the eye of the beholder determines whether the action of a person who said or did something is Islamophobic.

Is that a legitimate fear?

5:15 p.m.

Author, As an Individual

Dr. Ali Rizvi

Yes.

As I mentioned in my opening statement, the term “Islamophobia” is very broad. It includes not just anti-Muslim bigotry and hate against Muslims, but also any criticism of Islam, the religion itself, so now we are talking about scripture: the Quran, Hadith, or what have you.

When you have that kind of situation, it goes further than just hate. It actually impinges on free speech. The important thing I want to note here is that right now it's the free speech of millions—according to polling—of secular and liberal activists, people who are fighting for free speech in Muslim countries. They get hit with this label a lot because they criticize Islamic doctrine.

One important thing to understand is that in countries where Muslims are a minority, like here in Canada, Islam is an identity. I have a Muslim identity. My family has a Muslim identity. However, in countries where Muslims are a majority, Islam has more of that religious function. It's put into action. While Muslim women here choose to wear the hijab, or head scarf, as a symbol of their identity and their belief—which we support, obviously—that same head scarf is forced onto women by their governments, their husbands, and their fathers in Iran and Saudi Arabia. Often it is here as well.

The same book that people here revere as sacred, over there is put into law and used to justify everything from the execution of apostates to the persecution of homosexuals and so on.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Could I ask one very specific question?

I'm not sure if it's on Facebook. I guess it is. You've gone back and forth in a conversation with a distinguished Ahmadiyya scholar. I haven't actually read it. I've only seen your Huffington Post comments on it.

Are Ahmadiyya Muslims in a position of being accused of Islamophobia in some cases, or is the persecution they face of a different sort?

5:15 p.m.

Author, As an Individual

Dr. Ali Rizvi

There is sectarianism in Islam, just as there is in all the other religions. There is a tendency for some groups to label other groups as not true Muslims. The problem is that whenever you label somebody as not true Muslim, as a blasphemer or heretic, we know from the history of all the religions the kind of fate they have suffered. Unfortunately, these people are still subjected to it in the Muslim world.

The Ahmadiyya community is also frequently labelled as non-Muslim, as blasphemers or heretics. We know from the violence against them in South Asia, mainly in Pakistan, that they are definitely a targeted community. There are many mainstream Muslims who think that they should be put to death. Again, one of the problems with the term “Islamophobia” is that, when you talk about criticism of Islam and you don't differentiate it from anti-Muslim hate, you are going into a territory that's very difficult to navigate.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

I have one last question in the minute I have left.

You mentioned Bill 62 in Quebec, and I just have to ask the question. I know you don't approve of the term “Islamophobia”, and I think I share your view. Could that be characterized as an anti-Muslim bill, or anti-Muslim discrimination? Would that be a reasonable characterization of it?

5:15 p.m.

Author, As an Individual

Dr. Ali Rizvi

My view on Bill 62 is that I don't believe we should be legislating what women should or should not wear. I come from a part of the world where that happens a lot. There are many women who are forced into wearing things such as the niqab and the hijab by their families, but at the same time, I am in favour of restriction. When you have to establish identity, if you're going into a bank or government building, or testifying, then yes, establish identity. If there are security concerns, yes, we should regulate that.

We shouldn't be allowing children to walk around in burkas and niqabs, but if there are adult women who choose to do it out of their own volition.... I have a friend, a white Muslim convert, who voluntarily took it.

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Vice-Chair Conservative Peter Van Loan

We have to move on to the next set of questions.

Ms. Kwan, you have seven minutes.

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to both of our witnesses.

Mr. Rizvi, on the point around the definition, I'm sad to say that ship has sailed for the purpose of this committee. I recall how during the debate I was desperately working across the floor between the Liberals and the Conservatives to see whether we could come to an agreement so that we could have unanimous support. As you stated, the issue at hand is far more important than disagreement with respect to the definition. There was certainly an effort made, but ultimately, I believe, the Prime Minister's Office put their foot down and the thing did not go through. So, sadly, here we are.

I have studied the motions put forward by the Conservatives and the Liberals, the one we are studying today, and I think the end goal is really to ensure that the issue of discrimination in all its forms be addressed in our Canadian society.

Moving to recommendations and issues before us, I'd like to turn my questions to Staff Sergeant Zackrias.

You mentioned something that I think the previous panel also touched on, which is an individual's own personal and hidden fears, and the discrimination within us. Sometimes we don't even see it or identify with it. With the example that you gave about the car accident, I think you were illustrating a point.

On that issue, in terms of recommendations, how can we address this effectively, with a national approach to it? You mentioned working with NGOs, being led by NGOs with respect to that. Would you say we need a national strategy across the country from government to address the issue of racial and religious discrimination, with a specific stream to provide supports and resources to NGOs to lead the process on education and awareness?

5:20 p.m.

S/Sgt David Zackrias

Yes, I would support that. I'm in full agreement. There's a need for a national strategy. If we don't address hate crimes and racial and religious discrimination, they could manifest and have far-reaching implications, based on what's happening around the world, for example.

Yes, we need to focus on building that awareness, as well as the education piece. The previous panel touched on the Harvard implicit bias test. I've done that test as well, and it's a great tool. It helps you to recognize your implicit biases and it also helps manage your biases. I strongly support that.

In 2016 we introduced fair and impartial police training for Ottawa police officers. It was mandatory training for all of our members. It touches on the science and theory behind human biases. From my understanding, there isn't a lot of Canadian research done in this field. We had to rely on the American research. The product itself, the fair and impartial policing training, is American based, and it is applied here. I believe Toronto Police Service is also providing this training, as well as Durham Regional Police Service and the Ottawa Police Service.

We need something at a national level, where all agencies implement this sort of training. Also, there's an element of need to push this training within the community, as community members have biases as well. It has to be done at all different levels.

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Thank you for that.

I'd like to turn for a moment to the victims, the people on the receiving end. Some of these issues manifest themselves and it becomes a hate crime but in others it does not. There's a lot of under-reporting. We know that already. In providing supports to the victims where they can report these things...and there are all kinds of reasons why people don't do it, I'm sad to say. For some it's mistrust of the police force. That's another reason. Do you have any recommendations as to how we can overcome this barrier, particularly with a view to ensuring that victims' voices are heard and respected? Then what mechanisms or strategies can government put in place to support the victims who are the injured parties?

5:25 p.m.

S/Sgt David Zackrias

Yes, a lot of communities are sometimes reluctant to come forward and report these incidents. According to Stats Canada, I believe two-thirds of hate crimes are unreported. That's a huge number, a huge gap. Again, in 2015 when that spike took place, I reached out to the entire Muslim community in Ottawa. I sent a mass email that got the media's attention and spread the message in the community. My purpose in sending that message was to encourage the Muslim community, the impacted community, to come forward and report it.

As another piece, we need to look at options. It can't just be one platform but we see other platforms where the community can go unreported. I believe in the U.K. there are channels where community members can report these types of incidents.

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Yes, community-based reporting has been suggested by other witnesses. I think the other one is the idea of having a hotline whereby people can go through a hotline, not necessarily the police system. So you support both those kinds of concepts?

5:25 p.m.

S/Sgt David Zackrias

Absolutely, but still we need to make sure that there is that connection between law enforcement because again public safety is paramount and if somebody is in danger, they should be contacting the police.

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Vice-Chair Conservative Peter Van Loan

Thank you very much.

We'll now do the final round of questions.

Ms. Dhillon.

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Anju Dhillon Liberal Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle, QC

Thank you.

I'd like to thank both our witnesses for being here.

Mr. Zackrias, thank you very much, first of all, for your very candid testimony and your personal experiences.

Do you feel the police are equipped to deal with hate crimes?

5:25 p.m.

S/Sgt David Zackrias

Hate crime is a complicated issue. Police are equipped to deal with it if a criminal offence is committed. Yes, absolutely, we will investigate it and we will prosecute it and make sure that all the steps are taken. As I said, it is a complex issue. The community has a big role in this education awareness. All those areas need to be looked at. The focus should be on prevention and intervention not on prosecution and investigation, although we need that. That's an importance piece but I think we should shift the focus to prevention and intervention and put our resources in that area. We could always do a better job.

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Anju Dhillon Liberal Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle, QC

We heard previous witnesses mention subconscious prejudices, subconscious biases. You yourself mentioned it. Just about everybody has them. When it comes to police officers having them and they see a certain member of a community walking on the street and they'll do a “stop and frisk” and we've heard of “driving while black”. Are the police being better trained now? In the past the training did not include cultural or racial sensitivity. There was more a question of stereotyping. Has that training changed?

5:30 p.m.

S/Sgt David Zackrias

Yes. I can speak from the Ottawa Police Service perspective.

Previously we used to offer diversity training at our college, but now I take our officers to the mosque. We started doing that this year. We went to two different mosques. They got a chance to spend the day there. We went to the Odawa Native Friendship Centre, and they got a chance to learn about our indigenous peoples as well. The training has changed to meet today's needs, and also the implementation of bias...fair and impartial police training, as well. That's a different way of looking at dealing with our own biases. The Ottawa Police Service is working right now toward a multi-year action plan, which focuses on a bias-neutral policing strategy for the organization.

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Anju Dhillon Liberal Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle, QC

What does that consist of?