Thank you to the committee for having us here. I'm here with my colleague Sukhpreet Sangha, and we'll be speaking interchangeably today.
Very quickly, the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario is a not-for-profit legal aid clinic that works with low-income South Asians across the province. We do poverty law, which includes a large volume of immigration, human rights, employment law, housing law and income security law.
From that casework we also look at the trends in what we hear from our clients and pick up on larger advocacy pieces around Ontario and around the country that are impacting the work we see on the ground, so our comments are directly related to our front-line work.
Approximately 30% of SALCO's legal casework raises issues of systemic racism and discrimination. We've worked on cases on access to service, housing, employment, policing, immigration, and we've worked within the larger justice system framework on these issues.
Our law reform work has addressed the growing inequities faced by racialized communities, inequities that intersect with multiple identities such as gender, faith, socio-economic status. Our work has addressed how those things intertwine in that world of online hate speech.
We've had a chance to speak on these issues at the United Nations. We are part of Ontario's anti-racism directorate consultation committee and worked on the legislation to embed that in Ontario law. We sit on the Toronto Police Service's anti-racism advisory panel. We've worked with the federal government on a national anti-racism strategy. We've debuted in Quebec and on test cases at the Supreme Court on the ability to wear the niqab, and we are currently sitting on a coalition of community leaders in Ontario that's looking specifically at dealing with hate crime and the rise of white supremacy.
No doubt you've heard from everybody today that obviously in recent years, we've seen a definite rise in hate speech in the public discourse. There's no doubt that social media platforms and the Internet have played a significant role in spreading that hate speech.
Globally and domestically, we know that online hate has been a catalyst for violence against Muslim, Jewish, black and indigenous communities.
I want to say quickly that a lot of the discourse, a lot of the discussion, now is around Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, but the data shows that anti-black hatred is prolific in Canada, as is anti-indigenous hatred. I believe that those two communities go largely unreported, so it's important, I think, for this committee to take notice of those particular historical communities and the hatred they continue to face to this day.
Last week I met with a Muslim client who came to our office begging us to help get some of their remaining family members out of Sri Lanka. Why? It was because the others had been killed in an attack on the Muslim community in Sri Lanka, which was incited by online hate. The connection there is real. We have people here who are connected to people globally and we see the impact of online hate.
To be frank, I want to tell this committee that I have personally received a significant amount of hate email, social media hatred threatening me, and in one case threatening my family and my children and threatening our organization.
Yesterday I spoke to a Sikh colleague who had received an open message on the website of his organization calling him a “towel head” and telling him that his community should be deported and that he deserves to die.
I don't bring these things to the committee to be shocking, but to tell you that this is what we feel and see. The audacity and frequency with which people now spew hate online shows us that we have failed to control online hate. There is truly little in the way of real and accessible mechanisms in Canada to hold people accountable.
I'm going to turn it over to Sukhpreet.