Amid a troublingly sharp increase in reported Islamophobia-related incidents, Canadian anti-racism and civil liberties organizations have urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to establish a national plan to dismantle far-right and white supremacist groups operating in the country.
"Canadians, whether from Indigenous, Black, Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, Christian, or other faith and racialized communities have faced attacks on our homes, our places of worship, and our congregants at the hands of white supremacist organizations," according to the letter published Monday by the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM).
The far-right threat has grown in recent years. In 2015, nearly 100 far-right groups were operating in Canada. There are now more than 300 such groups, according to the letter. "Some of these groups train with explosives and live ammunition. Others have shown up to intimidate racialized communities – and they operate from coast to coast. Therefore, we need bipartisan action from all political parties to counter these groups."
The open letter, signed by Amnesty International and the Canadian Anti-Hate Network (CAHN) among others, came in wake of the fatal stabbing of Mohamed-Aslim Zafis outside the International Muslims Organization mosque in Toronto last month. Zafis, the caretaker of the mosque, was sitting in a chair when a neo-Nazi walked up to him and stabbed him in the neck.
"This attack did not happen in isolation. This attack is one in a long series of a chain of horrifying attacks on racialized communities in Canada," the letter said.
In 2017, the police reported 349 incidents of hate crimes against Muslims. That was an increase from 139 in 2016. In 2018, the latest figure available, the number was 173, but the situation has worsened since. According to Statistics Canada, about two-thirds of hate crimes go unreported. One of the problems in tackling hate crimes is that many Canadians have a hard time acknowledging that Islamophobia exists.
The Quebec City mosque shooting was the deadliest attack that targeted the Muslim community in Canada. The horrific attack Jan. 29, 2017 saw six worshippers die and 19 wounded by a lone gunman.
The membership numbers of far-right groups in Canada might not be skyrocketing, but they are steadily increasing nonetheless. Despite rising numbers of hate crimes, it was in June 2019 that Canada for the first time added right-wing groups to its list of outlawed "terrorist entities."
While being accused of being neo-Nazis and neo-fascists, they do not in fact fly swastika banners, perform the Roman salute in rallies or do much of anything that would fall under the category of something like "white supremacist" activity; they do, however, hold a very hard stance against Islam.
Much like Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, they are critical of Islam, saying that it does not comply with Western values. They are, in fact, more radical than the civic nationalist Marine Le Pen and her Front National in France.
While there are currently no viable political parties in Canada that threaten the establishment like the Front National or Wilders' Party for Freedom, they do have some public and online presence. While the situation in Canada might sound like it's increasingly volatile, the numbers say that such activities in Europe and the U.S. are much more widespread, both online and on the ground.