Major union in Mississauga, Brampton and Ontario urges ‘prevention first’ anti-hate strategy, after Milton-based cabinet minister’s $25M announcement
Unifor, the largest private sector in Canada, is questioning the difference in the size of two Ontario PC Party government grants programs aimed at curbing hatred.
On Wednesday, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Minister Parm Gill, who is Milton’s member of provincial parliament, announced the creation of a $25-million, attestation-based grants program to help protect places of worship and cultural community groups from hate crimes. The program is intended to help fund the cost of installing security cameras, alarms, lighting, window and door upgrades, graffiti removal as well as other safety measures like staff training. The program, which is also open to non-profit groups and registered charities, allows for a one-time grant of up to $10,000.
The announcement came amid an occupation in downtown Ottawa by a group that was protesting the end of a vaccination exemption for truck drivers and provincially imposed COVID-19 restrictions, but also has organizers with links to white supremacist groups. Nazi and Confederate flags were flown during the largest day of demonstrating on Jan. 29, which fell on the fifth anniversary of the Quebec City mosque mass shooting, when a radicalized right-wing man killed six men and wounded 19 others during evening prayers at the city’s Islamic Cultural Centre.
Following Gill’s statement, Unifor re-emphasized that two years ago, it offered the PCs and Premier Doug Ford recommendations about a “prevention first” strategy. The union, which has substantial membership in Mississauga and Brampton, noted the $25 million in available grants is nearly eight times more than the $3.2 million available through the province’s Anti-Racism Anti-Hate Grant Program.
“Fences and security cameras will not stop the hate that is rapidly swelling in communities across Ontario, the hate that this week, people in Ottawa are experiencing to an intense degree,” Unifor Ontario Regional Director said Naureen Rizvi said. “We need a comprehensive strategy that bravely faces racism and discrimination, not a recommendation to hide behind locked doors and clean up after the hate crimes occur.
Rivzi’s recommendations include demands to focus on supporting the Anti-Racism Directorate and fully implementing an Anti-Racism Strategic Plan, as well as eliminating racism in the education system. Other suggestions increasing access to mental health supports, affordable housing, and bolstering employment standards.
Rivzi also noted that the most horrifying hate crime in Ontario in the last year, the killing of four members of the Afzaal family last June 6 in London, happened in a public space. The driver of a truck crashed into five members, spanning three generations of a Muslim Pakistani Canadian family. The lone survivor, a boy who was nine at the time, was orphaned.
“The targeting of Ontarians for hate crimes devastatingly includes religious and cultural spaces, but as we’ve witnessed in London, on Yonge Street in Toronto, and through countless other hate-motivated crimes, it follows us into the streets. This is not a plan that will keep Ontarians safe,” Rizvi stated.
A man who was 20 at the time of the London attack is facing first-degree murder charges, one attempted murder charge and terrorism charges. The City of London’s plan also includes created a permanent memorial to the victims at the intersection. The National Council of Canadian Muslims, which is based in Mississauga, said the plan could be a model for other cities.
1/ A historic plan has been put forward in London.
A permanent memorial has been proposed in London, Ontario to honour three generations of the Afzaal family killed there last year in what police allege was a deliberate and Islamophobic attack.https://t.co/n59HySBgfu
— NCCM (@nccm) February 3, 2022
The grants program that Gill detailed by press release is called the Ontario Grant to Support Anti-Hate Security Measures for Faith-Based and Cultural Organizations. Gill, a former Brampton federal MP who was elected in 2018 to represent Milton at Queen’s Park, also cited the “disturbing” rise in hate crimes in Ontario in recent years.
“Faith-based and cultural organizations across Ontario work hard to bring communities together and provide a safe and inclusive gathering space to worship, practise their religion and celebrate their culture,” Gill stated.
“In recent years we have seen a disturbing rise in community-reported hate related crimes, including increased acts of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and anti-Asian racism, which has placed tremendous burden on faith-based and cultural organizations.
“Creating safer communities and protecting the rights of everyone to live free of fear and intimidation will help build a more inclusive and equitable Ontario.”
The full text of Rizvi’s recommendations to Premier Ford, written in late June 2020, is available at unifor.org.insauga's Editorial Standards and Policies advertising