Ontario NDP, Liberals would bring in law to fight Islamophobia, other hate if elected

KINGSTON, Ont. – Ontario’s New Democrats and Liberals say they would bring in a law to fight Islamophobia and other sorts of hate if elected to form government on June 2.

Speaking to reporters in Kingston, Ont. on Wednesday, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said addressing racism and hate is a priority for people who have experienced hateful attacks based on their race, faith or any other part of their identities.

She said she is proud of her party’s work with the National Council of Canadian Muslims to bring forward legislation earlier this year to help address Islamophobia in Ontario.

“There’s just too much hate out there,” she said.

“We have an obligation and a responsibility, leaders do, to take that on and to listen when (a)community says we don’t want to just hear the words. We want you to take action.”

That bill from the New Democrats was tabled in February but it was not passed before the election campaign began this month.

Horwath said it was “extremely disappointing” the only party in the Ontario legislature that wasn’t prepared to pass the law was the governing Progressive Conservatives.

“It was disrespectful,” she said.

The NDP said they would reintroduce the bill, known as the Our London Family Act, which would establish a provincial review of hate crimes and hate-motivated incidents in Ontario.

The party would also designate safe zones around houses of worship, prevent white supremacist groups from registering as societies and establish an anti-racism council that would provide input on government policies.

The bill, which was created with the National Council of Canadian Muslims and follows similar recommendations put forward by that organization, would also present new tools for schools to combat racism. Additionally, it would empower the Speaker to ban protests at the legislature that promote hate.

Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca said his party would also pass the anti-Islamophobia legislation if elected.

“I said from the very beginning that we would move forward with legislation. I’ve already committed to moving as quickly as I can to pass the Our London Family Act,” he said at an unrelated announcement in Toronto on Wednesday.

“It’s not the NDP’s Our London Family Act. It’s the National Council of Canadian Muslims who did all of the work from the very beginning to not only put together and research that legislation, but then to advocate very strongly with every party in the legislature.”

The Our London Family Act was created after a Muslim family in London, Ont., was struck and killed by a truck last year in what police say was a hate-motivated attack.

Salman Afzaal, his wife Madiha Salman, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna and her 74-year-old grandmother, Talat Afzaal, died after they were hit by a vehicle during an evening walk on June 6, 2021. Nine-year-old Fayez Afzaal was seriously hurt but survived.

Prosecutors say the man charged with four counts of murder and one of attempted murder committed an act of terrorism.

Another man, Mohamed-Aslim Zafis, was stabbed and killed outside a Toronto mosque in 2020. A man has been charged with murder in his death and police have said they cannot discount that the random attack was motivated by hate.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 18, 2022.

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