A new Forum poll released on January 26, 2017 reveals that nearly 50% of Canadians say they would disapprove and 49% would strongly disapprove the designation of January 29 as a national “Day of Remembrance and Action on Islamophobia”.
17% of Canadians said they would approve and only 7% would strongly approve. “Currently there is a high level of opposition to a National Islamophobia day, with most of those saying they disapprove doing so strongly,” said Dr. Lorne Bozinoff, President of Forum Research.
The push for a national Day of Remembrance and Action on Islamophobia was initiated by The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), a Muslim advocacy organization, who on December 5, 20176 sent an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urging Ottawa to designate January 29 as a National Day of Remembrance and Action on Islamophobia.
The date was chosen to coincide with the first anniversary of the attack on a Quebec mosque during which suspected shooter Alexandre Bissonnette, a 27-year-old student at Laval University, killed six men and wounded 19 others. Bissonnette faces six counts of first-degree murder and six counts of attempted murder while using a restricted firearm, but no charges of terrorism have been laid against him so far. A trial date was set for March 26, 2018.
The letter, signed by NCCM Executive Director Ihsaan Gardee and endorsed by a coalition of close to 70 national and Quebec-based Muslim organizations and two dozen community partners, called on Trudeau to stand firmly against Islamophobia and “agents of bigotry who aim to foment hateful division between Canadians and their fellow Muslim citizens” in light of the rise of “far-right extremist groups that continue to threaten the safety of Canadian Muslim institutions and congregations”.
The letter further called on the Federal government to designate January 29 – by order-in-council or proclamation – as a National Day of Remembrance and Action on Islamophobia, “to enable Canadians to collectively remember the victims of the attack and to enhance public education about the perils of hate, bigotry and Islamophobia”.
Last week, the cities of Markham and Hamilton announced that they adopted the initiative. A proclamation from Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti says, in part, that the Markham City Council “reaffirms that Islamophobia, like all other forms of racism, hate, xenophobia and bigotry, has no place in the City of Markham.
A motion to recognize January 29 was unanimously passed by the Hamilton City Council. Toronto is expected to pass a similar motion at its next meeting. The motion was introduced by Toronto’s first elected Tamil-Canadian Councillor Neethan Shan, who wrote on his Facebook page that “Islamophobia is an issue that impacts Torontonians. This is why I am advocating for January 29 to be recognized as a Day of Remembrance and Action on Islamophobia. Please share widely and let your councillor know you are in support of this motion #RememberJan29.”
On January 18, Trudeau told Radio-Canada’s French language morning show in Quebec City that the Federal government is still “in reflection” over the idea of adopting the Day of Action on Islamophobia nationally, but as of yet, there has been no official confirmation from Ottawa.
Vigils and tributes marking the first anniversary of the mosque shooting are scheduled on January 29 in dozens of cities, including Quebec City, Montreal, Toronto, Edmonton, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Fredericton, Halifax and Iqaluit.