Ontario Expands Plan to Combat Islamophobia in Schools
MISSISSAUGA — The Ontario government continues to invest in its plan to challenge Islamophobia and provide new supports and programs for students who have experienced discrimination. Too many students in Ontario schools face hate, racism, and divisive rhetoric that has no place in this province or country.
To decisively counter the threat of racism in schools and communities, Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, joined by Parm Gill, Minister of Citizenship and Multiculturalism, and Kaleed Rasheed, Member of Provincial Parliament for Mississauga East-Cooksville, announced funding and partnerships that will help create province-wide guides, resources, and materials to counter Islamophobic narratives in culture, online, and in the classroom. The resources are designed for school staff and students, and to support Muslim families, students, and educators.
As reported by Toronto Police, hate crimes across all categories rose 51 per cent in 2020 and kept rising in 2021. In 2020, the Muslim Association of Canada’s (MAC) Masjid Toronto saw six major incidents at both of its locations since the start of the pandemic, including spray-painted racial slurs and broken glass.
As part of Priorities and Partnerships Funding (PPF) COVID-19 Equity Supports, and in support of Muslim students in Ontario’s publicly funded school system, the provincial government is providing:
$150,000 to the Muslim Association of Canada to create new resources, including online courses, training modules, videos, and a web-based tool for educators, mentors, newcomer students, and parents. These resources will address mental health and well-being issues in connection with racism, discrimination, and the pandemic.
$50,000 to Naseeha Youth Helpline to support the growing demand for counselling support from Muslim students as well as racialized students, parents, and families during the pandemic. The funding will enhance Naseeha’s capacity to provide direct supports and resources.
“We have one message to racist bullies in our schools: it ends now,” said Minister Lecce. “Senseless attacks and hateful rhetoric against Canadians of Islamic faith – including students and staff – underscore why we are taking further action to counter Islamophobic narratives in culture, online, and in the classroom. Developed by Muslim leaders and youth, these province-wide resources will empower educators, parents, and students to address racism head-on to inspire change, respect, and inclusion.”
The announcement builds on past initiatives intended to support safe and welcoming schools, including targeted investments for Muslim students. This includes partnerships with Muslim-led organizations to counter racism and empower students and communities to confront hate wherever they see it.
Last year, Ontario provided:
$225,000 to the Muslim Association of Canada that supported the development of digital resources for educators, students, and parents to raise awareness about Islamophobia.
$50,000 to the National Council of Canadian Muslims, which implemented community check-in sessions for Muslim newcomer families in multiple languages in locations across the province.
For this school year, Ontario’s Priorities and Partnerships Funding (PPF) COVID-19 Equity Supports includes funding for initiatives that focus on combatting racism and other forms of discrimination, including anti-Asian racism, Islamophobia and antisemitism, promoting equity and academic success for Black youth and families, and supporting newcomer parents.
As part of the Safe Return to Class Fund, the Ontario government directed $6.4 million to support equity-related projects. This included funding to community organizations to address anti-Asian hate, antisemitism, and Islamophobia support for Black, Indigenous and 2SLGBTQI+ students as well as support for newcomer youth, parents, and families to enhance access to school and community resources, and culturally appropriate mental health and well-being supports for youth, families, and teachers.
On January 31, 2022, the Ontario government announced it was doubling its investment in the Anti-Racism Anti-Hate Grant Program and bringing the total funding for the grant program to $3.2 million over two years. The funding will help support more community-led public education and awareness projects.
To hold educators accountable for racist remarks and behaviour, Ontario amended regulations to explicitly set out remarks and behaviours that expose persons to hatred based on a prohibited ground of discrimination under the Human Rights Code as acts of professional misconduct, effective November 5, 2020.
Ontario requires all school boards to have an anti-bullying policy in place to help foster more welcoming and supportive school communities. As announced in November 2021, for the first time, there are specific references regarding religiously motivated discrimination, such as anti-Islamophobia, along with discrimination based on sexual orientation, and racism.
"One of the greatest strengths we have as a province comes from our cultural and religious diversity, and this is reflected in schools and classrooms across Ontario. Our government remains committed to creating conditions that combat racism, and today’s announcement is another important step toward ensuring classrooms are free from discrimination and students can feel safe and secure in their schools. "
- Parm Gill Minister of Citizenship and Multiculturalism
"I would like to thank Minister Lecce for his dedication and involvement with the Muslim community to help the fight against Islamophobia. This is a continuation of our government’s commitment to make our province safer and more inclusive. Our government, under the leadership of Premier Ford, has been with the Muslim community every step of the way. When we were told more funding supports were needed to combat Islamophobia, we listened and have acted in a meaningful way by providing support to the Muslim Association of Canada and Naseeha Youth Helpline to create new resources to address mental health and racial discrimination."
- Kaleed Rasheed Member of Provincial Parliament for Mississauga East-Cooksville.
"We all share a responsibility in the fight against hate and discrimination in Ontario and across the country. The Muslim Association of Canada is dedicated to working with the Government of Ontario to ensure that Muslim students learn in an environment that is free of Islamophobia and intolerance. Offering resources and tools to students to support their mental health and well-being will be built on the success of our www.IslamAwareness.ca web portal, which was established in collaboration with the Ministry of Education."
- Sharaf Sharafeldin Executive Director of the Muslim Association of Canada
"We are seeing the effects of COVID-19 every day at Naseeha, and the challenges Muslims and other racialized groups are facing. Social isolation, violence, and other unhealthy behaviours affecting students must end. Increasing our capacity through this funding will have a direct impact in our ability to answer more calls and build on much-needed support systems."
- Muhsin Kermalli Executive Director of Naseeha Youth Helpline
Ontario Combatting Islamophobia in Schools
Historic Level of Public Education Funding With Additional Supports to Keep Students and Staff Safe
Education Funding, 2021-22