LAWYERS with the Islamophobia Legal Assistance Hotline are joining other groups across Canada to call on the federal government to designate January 29 as a “National Day of Remembrance and Action on Islamophobia.” January 29 is the anniversary of the 2017 attack on a Quebec City mosque by a far-right extremist that left six Muslim men dead and 19 others wounded.
In 2016, nine legal organizations and several concerned individual lawyers came together to launch the Islamophobia Legal Assistance Hotline. The Hotline provides people who are Muslim or perceived to be Muslim and who have experienced discrimination with free, confidential legal advice and information. The number is 604-343-3828. Members of the public can learn more about the service on the Islamophobia Hotline website at www.islamophobiahotline.ca
“The January 29 mosque attack is part of a larger—and escalating— pattern of bigotry and hate crimes against Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim in Canada,” said Zool Suleman, a Vancouver lawyer who volunteers with the hotline. “As a legal community, it is our duty to pull together and ensure that people who are affected by this racism are able to protect their rights.”
“Islamophobia can be experienced in many different ways,” said Sarah Khan, staff lawyer at the BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre. “We have heard reports of harassment, violent attacks, racial profiling, property destruction and threats. Islamophobia affects everyday Canadians as they go about their lives, their schooling and their work. As a legal community, it is our duty to pull together and ensure that people who are affected by this racism are able to protect their rights.”
“We want to empower people to respond to this discrimination by making legal support more readily available,” said Aleem Bharmal. “Many people who experience this sort of discrimination might not even know that there may be legal options available to respond, depending on what happened, such as filing a discrimination complaint with the BC Human Rights Tribunal. We want to make sure people can get the legal advice and assistance that they need.”
“Discrimination against Muslims, and people perceived to be Muslims, is an intolerable and ongoing reality in Canada,” said Hasan Alam, a Vancouver lawyer who volunteers with the hotline. “It’s important to make sure that people who experience this hateful treatment can access help, which could include filing a complaint or contacting the authorities.”
The hotline was launched with the support of Access Pro Bono Society, the BC Civil Liberties Association, the BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre, the Community Legal Assistance Society, the Canadian Bar Association – BC Branch, the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers, Western Chapter, the National Council of Canadian Muslims, the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers – BC, and the South Asian Bar Association of BC.