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Prime Minister’s remarks at the National Summit on Islamophobia

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As-salamu alaykum.

Hello, everyone. Thank you for joining us.

Thank you, Omar, for your words, for that introduction, and your leadership. My friend, the work you do as our outstanding Minister of Transport, not to mention as the first Syrian-Canadian in Cabinet, is remarkable.

Now to kick things off, I want to pass it over right away to Mohammed Hashim to say a few words.

For those of you who don’t know him, we appointed Mohammed last year as the new Executive Director of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation.

From his experience with so many diverse communities, I can’t think of a better leader to meet this moment and to be part of the work that we’re doing to fight Islamophobia.

So I’m happy to pass it over to you for a moment, Mohammed.

[Mohammed Hashim’s remarks]

Thank you, Mohammed.

Your words remind us of what’s at stake and that message couldn’t come at a more important time.

Because right now, we do have to fight for the kind of Canada we all want to see. A place where we celebrate diversity, where we stand together, where we look out for each other.

That is the promise our country must work hard to live up to. Because too many times, and for too many people, that promise has been broken.

For the Afzaal family in London, Ontario, for communities in Etobicoke, in Quebec City, and across the country.

Earlier this week, I sat down with the Gurgi family in Hamilton, who were threatened because of their faith.

No one should face hatred in their own neighbourhood.

We talked about why things like this happen, and how to prevent it.

This includes fighting misinformation with education, and it also includes ensuring that Muslim women in particular feel safe.

No woman in Canada should feel unsafe walking down the street, no matter what she’s wearing, no matter the colour of her skin.

Together, we can and we must choose a different path.

Together, we can stand against Islamophobia and that’s exactly what we’ll keep doing.

Already, we’ve taken real action to protect Muslim Canadians and stamp out hate wherever it rears its ugly head.

We created Canada’s first-ever Anti-Racism Strategy and proposed a successful motion in the House of Commons to condemn Islamophobia. Because there must never be any doubt that hate is wrong and has no place in our country.

To keep people safe, we’re investing in infrastructure to protect everything from mosques to community centres.

And to keep violence out of our communities, we’re cracking down on online extremism and banning far-right hate groups.

As a country, we cannot forget why January 29 is now the National Day of Remembrance of the Quebec City Mosque Attack and Action Against Islamophobia.

We must remember the tragedies that have happened and constantly recommit ourselves to giving no ground to hate.

Wherever division threatens to take root in our country, we must stand strong and united.

On that note, I want to acknowledge the pain and trauma of global conflicts – including in the Middle East – on Muslim Canadians.  

I know that many in our communities have worried not just about family, but what this means here at home.

So let us be clear: there is no place in Canada for Islamophobia. Not ever.

And on the world stage, our government will always stand up for peace and democracy, human rights, freedom of expression, and freedom of belief. This includes through the protection of minorities.

To young Muslims who take to the streets to advocate and protest, who call on their elected officials to do more – we see you and we hear you. 

We will continue to work with you on these issues close to your hearts – close to our hearts. 

We have work to do to build the country – and the world – we all dream of. And that’s why we’re here today.

We organized this National Summit on Islamophobia, bringing together the federal government with Muslim communities from coast to coast to coast, to chart a path forward.

There’s no question that there is work to be done within government to dismantle systemic racism and Islamophobia. Because from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to security agencies, institutions should support people, not target them.

We hear that.

In fact, on the CRA, the Minister of National Revenue, Diane Lebouthillier, who’s here with us today, will have more to say a little later on.

As many of you have pointed out, part of the path forward must be a public service that is inclusive rather than just diverse. And the voices of all those with lived experiences and expertise on Islamophobia must be at the centre of our work.

Today, I’m here to listen to you on what our next steps should be to continue building a country where everyone is welcome, safe, and respected.

This is not your burden to carry alone.

As a society, this is everyone’s responsibility to take on.

We know that over the past years, we’ve seen increasing examples of hatred and division online and in public discourse. And over the past months of this pandemic, we’ve seen an increase in anti-Black racism, in anti-Asian racism, in antisemitism, in Islamophobia, in attacks against women.

The range of reasons why Canadians need to continue to commit themselves to stepping up continues to grow.

We all must understand that governments, that institutions, that organizations, that work places, that individual Canadians, all have essential roles to play to be friends, to be allies, but also to be part of the solution.   

The politics of division cannot take root if we refuse to be divided.

Hate cannot creep into the mainstream if we all speak up against it.

We’re a country where we know that diversity is our strength and where we know that everyone is equal and deserving of our deepest respect.

That is what we must defend. And together, I know that we will.

Earlier this week, when Muslim Canadians came together to mark Eid, it was to celebrate values that as Canadians we all hold dear – family, generosity, community.

You remind us every day that we are stronger together.

So together, let’s keep building a better Canada for everyone.

We will all be there together as Canadians.

Thank you for being here today.