Community groups offering safe space to talk about Islamophobia and racism
Published Thursday, August 27, 2020 6:52PM EDT
KITCHENER -- Two community groups in Waterloo Region have come together to address Islamophobia, racism and xenophobia.
The groups want to dismantle hate through reconciliation.
"Two-thirds of the Muslim populations have experienced some sort of Islamophobia," said Sarah Shafiq, program coordinator for the Coalition of Muslim Women of KW.
Community Justice Initiatives and the Coalition of Muslim Women of KW have launched Sulah, a project to address that locally.
"[It will] bring the community together and resolve conflicts in a restorative manner," Shafiq said.
The program is funded by a $75,000 grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation and will offer free conflict resolution services.
"When an incident occurs, then how do we bring the parties together, how do we resolve that conflict?" Shafiq said.
The groups want a safe space to promote dialogue.
"To really, directly talk about the impact on them, with the person who has harmed them," said Julie Friesen, director of programs with Community Justice Initiatives.
The program won't involve the criminal justice system.
It's already trained some local Muslim women as mediators.
"The volunteers are the people, we as the community are the ones who are saying we can help each other move forward on this," Friesen said.
Data from Statistics Canada showed 39 hate crimes were reported to police in 2018 in Waterloo Region. But, that's not the whole picture.
"Many of these incidents are not reported, they're not documented in our communities, out in the street, in workplaces, in housing," Shafiq said.
The executive director of Project Up, an initiative addressing discrimination face by Black Muslim girls, said people of colour face macro and micro aggressions every day.
"You'll hear thousands upon thousands of them from every single individual," Umi Mohammed said.
Mohammed added more needs to be done to protect racialized communities.
"We're not constantly relying on minorities to come forward and be like, this is an issue that's happening for me," Mohammed said.
Waterloo regional police say they don't have a breakdown of hate-motivated crime statistics by racialized groups, but are looking at tracking those numbers more closely in the future.