Ontario provides $300G to fight Islamophobia in schools

Money will benefit anti-hate and outreach programs run by two Muslim community organizations

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The Ontario government will provide $300,000 in funding to two Muslim organizations to help combat Islamophobia in school communities, Education Minister Stephen Lecce says.

The Minister’s announcement Tuesday began with an acknowledgement of the allegedly hate-motivated attack on a Muslim family in London, Ontario, last month that killed four people and orphaned a nine-year-old child.

“It was a senseless and horrific act of violence and our government, I think all Canadians, condemn this hatred in the strongest terms,” Lecce said.

“This attack is a reminder that Ontario has work to do in the fight against all forms of racism.”

Out of its “Safe Return to Class Fund,” Ontario will give $225,000 to the Muslim Association of Canada to create digital resources to raise awareness of Islamophobia to train educators and support students and families, he said.

“These resources will provide important information about Islamic practice and value and, more importantly, help address the misconceptions and root causes of Islamophobia and will support ways to stop it as well as combating other forms of racism and discrimination that exist,” Lecce said.

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Another $75,000 will go to the National Council of Canadian Muslims to facilitate outreach and engagement sessions with parents and family members of Muslim community members, Lecce said.

The Minister said there was an annual 9% increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes across Canada in 2019.

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There have been too many stories of students targeted because of their faith, he said.

Lecce said he is committed to upholding human rights and eradicating all forms of systemic discrimination against students and school communities.

“It is an issue that we are passionate about,” Lecce said.

Sharaf Sharafeldin, executive director of the Muslim Association of Canada, said 60 to 70% of the Muslim population lives in Ontario, and about half of those individuals are youth.

“And more than 90% of them attend public schools,” Sharafeldin said.

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Research has shown that Islamophobia in Ontario public schools results in these students feeling isolated and fearful to express their faith, he said.

“For Muslim teachers, there is a lack of awareness about Islam and Muslims among their peers, and there is a lack of representation of Muslims in teaching and curriculum,” he said.

Tackling Islamophobia in Ontario and the Ontario education system should include awareness, policies and curricular resources, he said.

aartuso@postmedia.com

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