Home Canada Ottawa’s new anti-Islamophobia advisor is facing backlash. Here’s what to know

Ottawa’s new anti-Islamophobia advisor is facing backlash. Here’s what to know

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he stands behind Amira ElgawabyCanada’s first special representative on combat Islamophobiaas Quebec government officials continue to call for her resignation.

Elgwaby, who was appointed last Thursday, has faced criticism since his appointment was announced Opinion she co-wrote in 2019In that work, Elgawaby is a Quebec building 21bans certain civil servants, including teachers and police officers, from wearing religious symbols in the workplace.

The Quebec government says the law aims to defend secularism — the province’s official policy of separating religion from the state — but critics such as the Muslim National Council of Canada called it discrimination and a law that “brings second-class citizenship.”

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Federal ministers, who have been repeatedly questioned by Quebec over the past two days about their concerns, stepped into a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.Trudeau said he supported Elgawaby “100%.”

“Through her years of work, she has shown the openness and rigor that we need now,” he said in French.

“I understand that dealing with Islamophobia requires an important and sometimes difficult conversation, but I need someone who is knowledgeable and down to earth and she is the right person.” I know it is.”

She and co-author Bernie Farber, former chief executive of the Canadian Jewish Congress, wrote in a 2019 op-ed that “the majority of Quebecers are driven not by the rule of law but by anti-Muslim sentiment. A poll conducted earlier this year by Léger Marketing found that 88% of Quebec citizens who hold a negative view of Islam support it (Bill 21).

In a tweet, Elgwaby said late last week that she I don’t think Quebecers are IslamophobicHowever, for Quebec government officials, her response was insufficient.

Here’s what you need to know about riots.

Why do Quebec authorities want Elgawaby to resign?

The Quebec minister in charge of the province’s secularism called Elgawaby’s remarks in a 2019 op-ed “abhorrent” and said her subsequent description was “unacceptable.”

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“She must resign, and if she does not resign, the government must remove her immediately,” Jean-François L’Oberge said in a statement Monday.

The editorial in question was written with reference to the Léger poll. Published in the Montreal Gazette in 2019A poll found that 88% of Quebecers with negative feelings about Islam support pushing Bill 21 to ban religious symbols from public school teachers.

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It also suggests that 28% of those surveyed have a positive view of Islam and 60% have a positive view of Catholicism.

The poll was published in the Montreal Gazette under the headline “New Poll Shows Support for Bill 21 Is Based on Anti-Muslim Sentiment.”

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“Unfortunately, the majority of Quebecers seem to be swayed not by the rule of law, but by anti-Muslim sentiment,” she and her co-author Farber wrote at the time.

“A poll conducted earlier this year by Léger Marketing 88% of Quebecers Those who held a negative view of Islam supported the ban. “

Since her appointment, editorials have resurfaced, with calls from supporters of Quebec’s Bill 21 calling for Elgawaby’s resignation.The day after her appointment, Elgawaby series of tweets Reveal her past statements.

“We aim to unite all Canadians across the country to fight Islamophobia,” she said on Jan. 27.

“I do not believe that Quebecers are Islamophobic. My previous comments were about polls on Bill 21. to.”

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Still, L’Oberge doubled down on her call to resign, citing former NDP leader Tom Mulquer wrote a column for the Montreal Gazette on Tuesday “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a mistake in appointing Amira Elgawaby as Canada’s first special representative to fight Islamophobia.”

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“Trudeau says she is there to fight prejudice and build bridges. I’m here.

“If your work combats bias and you have made statements in the past that sound like they reflect your own bias, you retract them and, ideally, apologize. or try to explain.”

Canada’s Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez said on Tuesday he was “deeply hurt” by Elgawaby’s column and said he had asked to meet with her to discuss them.

Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet has scheduled a meeting with Elgawaby on Feb. 1 after telling reporters that her remarks were “more divisive than united”. announced.

The backlash is ‘disappointing’, say supporters

When Elgawaby’s appointment was announced, the CEO of the Muslim National Council of Canada Stephen Brown said he expected “some backlash”.

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“But the level of resistance and astringency — surprising and disappointing,” he said.

“No one would believe that her deep-rooted hatred of Quebecers was her motivation.”

If the government appoints a person to uphold Quebec law, that person “will have zero credibility,” Brown said.

“They will soon be condemned by the country’s overwhelming Muslim majority,” he said.

Meanwhile, Brown said the real issues affecting Muslim Canadians, including continued concerns over the rise of hate crimes in the country, have not been highlighted.

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Quebec’s relationship with religion is historically complex.

The Catholic Church firmly ruled the state in the mid-20th century. This reality ultimately evoked an equally strong rejection of the role of religion in public life. According to a Quebec-based human rights lawyer, the province has its own version of the French Laïcité model, or a policy of public secularism that is culturally “quite different” from what exists in other parts of Canada. is employed.

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“They’ve created a kind of new national framework…that seeks to wipe out any suggestion of religious views from the state apparatus,” said Pearl Eliadis, who is also a professor at McGill University.

As the Quebec government defends Bill 21 to uphold this laïcité principle, the Quebec High Court has expressed concern about its impact on religious groups.

In a 2021 ruling, Superior Court Judge Marc-André Blanchard said Bill 21 would have a “severe and negative” impact on people wearing religious symbols, but would be largely legal and He said it did not violate the constitution.

Blanchard acknowledged that the law was “cruel” and “dehumanizing” for certain people. Many of them will not be able to seek new jobs in the public service without compromising their beliefs.

“I am not sympathetic to the idea of ​​not wanting to see people who might convert …[but]there is no evidence that these people are doing anything that Québec secularists worry about,” he said. Eliadis said.

“I believe that if we are going to restrict fundamental rights, it must be based on evidence.”

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Eliadis said it was “wrong” to assume that the “majority” of Quebecers was swayed by anti-Muslim sentiment, based only on the 88% statistic. Take these views. “

“So that statement has now been made… I think we need to move on from that and accept her in good faith if you want to,” she said.

“I hope people take a breather and give her a chance to work. Don’t assume ‘Quebec bashing’ is necessarily involved…we all make mistakes.”

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