Are Muslims Discriminated against in Canada since September 2001?
Helly, Denise, Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal
Following the terrorist acts in the United States in September 2001, hostility toward Muslims increased in North America and Europe. This article describes the different forms of discrimination experienced by Muslims in Canada inasmuch as the data gathered during and before the last two years allow it. (1) It also attempts to describe the main factors underlying the hostility toward Muslims and how these factors could be peculiar to Canadian society, where the government proclaims itself the only multicultural state in the West and one that is very respectful of immigrants' and cultural minorities' rights.
A la suite des attentats terroristes aux Etats-Unis en septembre 2001, les actes hostiles se sont multiplies a l'egard des personnes de confession musulmane dans les societes occidentales. Cet article retrace les diverses formes de discrimination subies par les musulmans au Canada autant que le permettent les donnees compilees avant et apres les evenements de septembre 2001. Il tente aussi de reperer les fondements de cette discrimination qui s'avereraient propres au Canada, un pays dont l'Etat se proclame le seul Etat multiculturel au monde et parmi les plus respectueux des droits des immigres et de leurs descendants.
According to the Multiculturalism Act (1988), "The Government of Canada recognizes the diversity of Canadians as regards race, national or ethnic origin, colour and religion as a fundamental characteristic of Canadian society and is committed to a policy of multiculturalism." Discrimination against Muslims is, therefore, a subject of national interest, particularly since the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.
Islam is a new phenomenon in Canada. It first became part of the public debates during the 1990s. In 1994, students wearing the hijab (a traditional headscarf) were expelled from some schools in Quebec. Since 1996, data have been published showing the growth of the Muslim population. According to 2001 census data, the Muslim population numbered 579,000 persons, growing from 253,000 in 1991. The majority are of Pakistani origin and live in the Toronto area, and Montreal is home to the second largest concentration of Muslims, with a population of 120,000 of mostly Arab origin.
This article has three objectives: to describe the discrimination suffered by Muslims in Canada, to assess any increase in the level of discrimination since September 2001, and to determine the forms it takes and the reasons for this discrimination in Canada. The fulfillment of these objectives requires that definitions of discrimination, including those provided by the Canadian government, be specified.
DISCRIMINATION AND THE RIGHT TO EQUALITY
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982), along with other provincial Charters of Rights and Freedoms, protect fundamental freedoms (of conscience, religion, thought, opinion, expression, peaceful assembly, association, and defense) and basic human rights (to life, security, privacy, dignity, non-harassment, and presumption of innocence). They prohibit discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, sex, age, or mental/physical disability. The right to equality protected by these documents is fourfold: equality before the law, equality in the application of the law, equality of protection afforded by the law, and equal benefit of the law.
The concept of equal benefit of the law counters a formal conception of equality as identical treatment that can, paradoxically, cause serious inequality. It is a Canadian principle that, in order to treat all equally, distinctions may occasionally have to be made (Crepeau 1994). In an unprecedented 1989 judgment, (2) the Supreme Court defined discrimination as a "distinction, whether intentional or not, based on motives related to the personal characteristics of an individual or a group of individuals, which impose on this individual or group burdens, obligations or disadvantages not imposed on others, or prevent or restrict access to the possibilities, benefits and advantages offered to other members of society." Discrimination is thus defined as the denial of equality based on an unlawful criterion of distinction, and it can be either direct or indirect.
Direct discrimination occurs when one or more personal characteristics based on unlawful criterion are explicitly applied to deny a right or a freedom. Indirect discrimination occurs when an action produces an uneven effect on a group or a person identified by a similar unlawful criterion (i.e., physical characteristics, cultural origin, age, gender, religion, handicap), without the discriminationary action having to be the aim (Bosset 1989; Ledoyen 1992). The example that is cited most often is the weight or size requirement to become a police officer or a fireman. In practice, these requirements exclude members of groups generally lacking the required characteristics.
One can also speak of systemic discrimination when inequalities between groups of people are not ascribable to an identifiable factor but seem to be linked to a number of present and/or past factors. An important example is the under-representation of minority groups in certain occupations compared to the number of members of charter groups (Canadians of British or French ancestry). This inequity requires us to question whether the basis is attributable to discriminatory practices (whether voluntary or involuntary) or to characteristics recognized as sources of economic differentiation (level of schooling, work experience, knowledge of the official languages). In Canada, the under-representation of members of "visible minorities" in public office was recognized as part of past and present discriminatory practices. As a result, the Employment Equity Act was passed in 1986.
Discrimination can also be distinguished according to its source. Institutionalized discrimination occurs when public laws and measures intentionally exclude some people from enjoying rights available to others. A denial of these rights existed, for example, from 1908 until the 1960s when quotas for immigrants from Middle-Eastern and "Asian" countries were applied.
In addition to systemic and institutionalized discrimination, we can also speak of veiled (Kunz, Milan, and Schetagne 2001), usual (Ledoyen 1992), or voluntary discrimination (Mc Andrew and Potvin 1996) to refer to attitudes or actions which, based on an unlawful criterion, lead to the exclusion of people from spheres of daily social life. This form of discrimination is difficult to prove, difficult to quantify, poorly documented, and seldom results in formal complaints. Nevertheless, the effects are manifested in different ways, such as the under representation of members of some ethno-cultural groups in particular neighborhoods, associations, clubs, and social networks (i.e., of colleagues, neighbors, friends; intermarriages). In the case of people of Muslim heritage, these various forms of discrimination can be demonstrated in some fields but are difficult to prove in others.
DIRECT DISCRIMINATION: DENIAL OF BASIC RGHTS AND FREEDOMS
Perpetrated by Individuals
Hostile acts against an individual or a group based on a personal attribute (such as public insults, incitement of hatred, physical violence, and/or attacks against property) are infringements of the right to dignity, safety, integrity, and the peaceful enjoyment of property. (3) This form of discrimination was rarely documented during the 1991 Gulf War and thereafter (Abu-Laban and Abu-Laban 1991:124-126). Post-September 11, however, ethnic and human rights organizations started to monitor discrimination more systematically as hate crimes multiplied. Fear and dejection led to a number of emergency calls to these organizations from people anxious to learn how to ensure their personal security. Muslims feared attack owing to religious and cultural practices (clothing, beard, head coverings), attending Muslim places of worship or schools, and taking leaves of absence during religious holidays.
Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC) figures indicate a 1,600 percent increase in hate crimes against Muslim individuals or places between September 2001 and September 2002 (Media release, March 10 2003). The Congress received 11 complaints related to such crimes the year preceding the September 2001 attacks, but this figure increased to 173 the following year. In the United States, a 2001 Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) report indicates the same 1,600 percent increase in hate crimes against people perceived as Muslims: 28 in 2000, and 481 in 2001, including 3 murders and 35 cases of arson (Abdelkarim 2003:51). The Toronto Police Service Hate Crime Unit (2001:8,11,13,22) noted a 66 percent increase in hostile acts in 2001. Ninety percent of that increase was related to the terrorist attacks against the United States, as they occured between September and October 2001 (i.e., 121 of the total 338 hate crimes committed during the year). Of these 121 acts, 57 specifically targeted Muslims. (4) In comparison, in 2001, 58 hate crimes were counted against people of Jewish origin, 53 against "Blacks," and 24 against homosexuals. Only one hate crime toward a person identified as Muslim was recorded in 2000. The police departments of three other Canadian cities also reported an outbreak of hate crimes from September through the end of December 2001, all connected to the terrorist attacks: 44 in Ottawa, 40 in Montreal, and 24 in Calgary (Hussain 2002:23). Similar complaints were also made to nongovernmental organizations. Between September 11 and November 15 2001, the Canadian chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN) was advised of 110 incidents, including 10 death threats, 10 hate messages, 33 verbal aggressions, and 13 assault and battery incidents (CAIR-CAN press release, November 20 2001). Unfortunately, statistics related to verbal harassment, death threats, physical attacks, and other hate crimes remain vague for several reasons.
First, victims of hate crimes seldom make an official complaint, and witnesses rarely come forward, as was recently documented by a French study carried out in 2002. In that study, only 48 percent of the French who were polled declared themselves willing to report racist incidents to police (Zappi 2003). This reluctance to report has also been documented in the United States. The FBI recorded only 481 hate crimes against Muslims in 2001, though 1,700 were reported to the CAIR-U.S. chapter from September 2001 through February 2002 (Abdelkarim 2003). Forty instances of threatening or insulting phone calls, insults on the street, vandalism, and assault and battery were reported by 181 women involved in discussion groups organized by the Canadian Council of Muslim Women; of these forty cases, participants only reported two to police (Hussain 2002:23). In Montreal, police recorded a dozen complaints of verbal harassment and 83 "hate events" between September 11 and 20 2001 (Taillefer 2002), whereas, according to testimonies gathered by community organizations, Muslims and Middle-Eastern immigrants suffered many more insults in public venues (e.g., the street, the work place, or when using public transit).
This reluctance to report incidents to police is one important factor undermining the collection of statistical information. Another is that the consolidation of the Muslim community is still weak, despite a multitude of religious and secular associations. The two pan-Canadian organizations documenting the infringement of Muslims' rights and freedoms, CAIR-CAN and the Canadian Islamic Congress, have few resources.
A third factor explaining the inadequacy of these statistics is that some Canadian police services either do not record hate crimes at all (e.g., Halifax), the ethno-cultural origin of the victims (e.g., Windsor), or their religion (e.g., Hamilton, Calgary, Waterloo, Edmonton). In addition to this lack of uniformity in reporting, the categories used to identify the victims or to classify the hate crimes also vary. For example, the Toronto Police Hate Crime Unit, formed in 1993, groups together the following categories: Muslim, Pakistani, Middle Easterner, Somali, Arab, and East Indian. This makes it difficult to know if religion, national or cultural origin, or physical characteristics are the bases of the hate crimes. The same unit does not include insults in the street as hate crimes, whereas Muslim organizations and the Jewish B'nai Brith do (The Gazette 2003).
Attacks against Muslim places of worship increased sharply after September 11. According to CAIR-CAN, twelve such attacks occurred across Canada between September 11 and November 15 2001 (Hussain 2002:14). According to the testimonies of 181 women living in various Canadian cities, at least one attack took place against a place of worship in each Canadian city between September 2001 and June 2002 (Hussain 2002:15); sixteen of these were bomb threats. Police presence at Muslim places of worship during Friday prayers and at Muslim schools throughout Canada was offered for only a few days or weeks after the attacks.
In Canada, as in Western European countries, hate crimes toward people of Muslim heritage appear to have decreased in 2002 and thereafter (Diene 2003:3). The Toronto Police Hate Crime Unit (2002:10, 13) recorded only ten such crimes in 2002 against "Muslims," though fifteen crimes against "Pakistani," "Afghan," "Palestinian," "Middle-Easterners," and "Arabs" could be added. However, attacks against Muslim places of worship continued.
According to Canadian social workers in the field of immigration, the decrease in hostile acts in 2002 and after is explained by the way these conflicts were handled. Examples of how networks between Canadian municipalities, schools, police authorities, public organizations, and NGOs were used to defuse these potentially harmful situations are often cited. In major Canadian cities, police authorities have well-established crisis management units composed of representatives from different ethnic backgrounds. These community bonds proved useful when violent incidents occurred. For example, when a Muslim adolescent was physically assaulted by youth in September of 2001 in Ottawa, municipal bodies and community organizations worked together to condemn the attack, rally public support, and stop any possible replication. In a similar situation, when a Sikh temple in Hamilton, Ontario was apparently mistaken for a mosque and totally burned, relations between ethnic groups and the authorities deteriorated, not only because of the lack of experience in inter-ethnic conflicts in the community, but also of a lack of contact between the police and ethnic communities. A hate crimes unit was established after that incident.
In Canada, hostile acts targeting Muslims are more likely to take the form of insults, threats, and attacks against places of worship than acts of assault and battery or physical aggression, though violent acts of aggression do sometimes occur. A Pakistani immigrant family was beaten in a Montreal park in the spring of 2002, and a teenager was severely wounded in Ottawa in September 2001. In both cases, youths of European origin were accused.
According to a United Nations special report (Diene 2003:2, 4), hostility against Arabs and Muslims has taken different forms in different countries. That report demonstrated that in the United Kingdom and Germany, Arab and Muslim women wearing a hijab were more likely to be attacked; in the Netherlands and in Australia, the most likely form was attacks against places of worship (ninety such acts were recorded from September 11 until October 2, 2001 according to the Australian Association of Anti-discrimination Centers); France experienced an increase in malevolent acts (169 were declared in 2002, of which a third were in the north and in Ile-de-France [Zappi, 2003]); in the United States, verbal harassment and physical attacks against Muslim individuals were the incidents most recorded.
Labor Market and Workplaces
Since September 2001, no extensive Canadian studies have been done regarding any rise in discrimination suffered in the workplace by people of Muslim heritage. The available data do not distinguish between Middle Eastern and South Asian groups (notably the Pakistani group). According to the Ethnic Diversity Survey, 64 percent of the members of visible minorities report discrimination or unfair treatment at work, but data sorted according to ethnic origin or religious classification are not yet available.
Nevertheless, investigations in Quebec described the obstacles and disadvantages suffered by people of Muslim heritage in that province. In the spring of 2001, questionnaires asking about hiring practices with regard to visible minorities were sent to 197 employers in Quebec City. Only 19 responded, (5) of which a third (35 percent) declared that they refused to employ an "Arab" or a person from the Maghreb (Lubuto Mutoo 2001). After September 2001, some Quebec NGOs, committed to the integration of minorities in the labor market, received calls from employers asking them not to refer "Arabs" (Bouchard et al. 2002:10), and, significantly perhaps, the Directeur de l'Etat civil in Quebec mentioned a "phenomenal" increase in "requests by Muslims" to change their names since September 2001 (idem). According to another recent study, three categories of people experience particular difficulties finding jobs: "Blacks, people of Arabic origins and 'visible' Muslims" (Tadlaoui 2002:20). In such cases, discrimination often takes the form of refusing to consider the resumes of people from Arab origin or of the Islamic faith under the pretext that, if hired, they will not take part in "the life of the company," and that their habits are too distant from those considered Quebecois ones. It was also found that some job applicants were excluded because of their French accent, "bad attitudes" during the interview, a "poorly written" curriculum vitae or, in the case of sales departments, a concern that customers would perceive these cultural/racial groups negatively.
Another obstacle to gaining employment for Muslims and members of other visible minorities is more difficult to grasp. Simply put, Muslims often do not belong to employment networks, a significant factor given that approximately 80 percent of available jobs are not publicized. This recruiting practice is described as "cloning" (Luboto Mutoo 2001), and the process, believed to save time and money, is accentuated by ethnocentrism, racism, and/or xenophobia. In addition, discrimination in the workplace is often manifested in the form of threats and offensive comments against signs related to Islam (hijab, clothing, beard); dismissals for expressing a political opinion (generally on a question relating to the Middle-East); refusing to remove an item of clothing (hijab), and/or of unfounded allegations on the part of colleagues (Lubuto Mutoo 2001). These forms of discrimination are substantiated by the testimonies of Muslim immigrants in other Canadian cities (Bel Hassen 2002:12; City of Ottawa 2002). (6)
Although the data presented illustrate discrimination in the workplace, they do not allow conclusions to be drawn about a rise in direct discrimination against Canadian Muslims in the labor market. Little documentation exists regarding similar cases of discrimination, for complaints are rare, and the reasons given for the refusal to hire or for dismissing members of cultural or facial minority groups are generally covered with pretexts so that one can only guess the true reasons.
Another denial of an economic right has been noted since September 2001. People named Osama had their bank accounts unjustly frozen. Others experienced attempts by colleagues to have them dismissed. A documentary entitled "Being Osama" details these experiences. It was financed in part by a Quebec public organization (SODEC), and the main Canadian television networks (CBC, CTV, Global) and Al Jazeera plan to broadcast it (Montgomery 2003).
Prior to September 2001, numerous incidents concerning the status of Islam within public schools occurred in Quebec. In 1988, a Montreal parents' committee rejected an Arabic language class, despite its recognition by the Quebec Ministry of Education (not to mention the fifty-two hundred pupils already enrolled in such classes provincially). The arguments used by opponents revealed the prevalence of an Arabic stereotype, which was fast becoming a Muslim one: "The teaching of Arabic is only the first step of a broader strategy, then it will be the Koran"; "The boys are already macho as it is, what will one teach in this course?"; "Arabs should remain in their homeland, we must defend our quality of life and our values." The fact that the Arabic-speaking mothers who requested the course were generally well-educated and Christian was either ignored by the parents' committee or seen as a strategy used to hide "real" intentions: "They hide behind Christians and women, but one should not be misled" (Mc Andrew 2002:137). Despite the protests, the school administration decided to offer the course.
A similar incident occurred in another Montreal school in March of 1991, when Muslim parents requested that Muslim morals be taught in school, as allowed by Article 5 of the 1988 Law on Public Education and article 41 of the Quebec Charter of Rights. In this instance, the opposition of parents from other faiths was strong enough to deter the initiative (Proulx 1994).
In 1994-95, twelve pupils wearing the hijab made newspaper headlines. Once again, "slippages and stereotyped presentations of the Muslim community abounded, in particular in the discourse originating from the civil society (letters and phone-in programs, teachers' groups, and grass-roots feminists or nationalists)" (Mc Andrew 2002:134). Islam as well as the Quebec Muslim community were presented as a threat to democracy and to the equality of men and women. As a result, Islam was implicitly, if not openly, compared to fundamentalism and terrorism (Mc Andrew 2002:139). After six months of public controversy by feminist, (7) nationalist (Lenk 2000), and pro-laicite (Ciceri 1999) movements, in 1995 the Commission des droits et libertes de la personne ruled that wearing the hijab must be allowed for fear of infringing on the rights of the girls. The public dispute ended.
Contrary to expectations, reported racist incidents between pupils or between pupils and school personnel were rare following the September 2001 attacks and were quickly controlled. Measures were taken the week of the attacks and during the following weeks to minimize racist acts locally. In Montreal, the police established contacts with representatives of Muslim organizations, and presentations about the "Arab community" were made to the municipal police, to social workers at schools, and to school directors in the Montreal-area primary and secondary schools. Post-traumatic stress management teams were also made available to student victims of racism. Such measures and their impact remain to be documented in other Canadian schools.
Government Organizations and Their Agents as Perpetrators
Ethnic Profiling and Attacks on Freedoms
An anti-terrorism law (8) (C-36) was adopted on December 7 2001 by the Canadian Parliament. It is interesting to note that since then, Canadians have expressed little concern about terrorism. According to a survey conducted by the Environics Research Group between September 26 and October 1 2002, 18 percent of respondents identified war as their major concern; 16 percent, the environment; 11 percent, famine in the world; and 9 percent, terrorism.
The law led to the modification of twenty-two existing Canadian laws (Jezequel 2002) including the criminal code, the protection of personal information, access to information, and the request for evidence (which no longer obliges the Crown to provide all of the elements). It also created criminal offenses: facilitating and inciting terrorist acts, (9) affiliation with organizations suspected of involvment in similar acts, and financial support of a terrorist entity leading to the seizure of property and goods suspected of being used for terrorist activities. The term "facilitating" is criticized by the Canadian Bar Association because the facilitation of terrorist activities is considered criminal even in the absence of any knowledge of these activities by the defendant. Bill C-16 (Charities Registration Act) also allows the cancellation of the charitable status of any organization or group that finances, or is suspected of financing, terrorist activities. (10)
Bill C36 erodes the protection of freedoms by increasing the powers of the police. After September 11, the police force was given the right to conduct secret searches, to expand the six-month period of electronic eaves-dropping, and to listen to a person's overseas communications based solely on the decision of the Minister of National Defence, without any judicial oversight. The lave also gave police the right to hold people for seventy-two hours without charging them, to conduct inquiries without warrants, and to oblige detainees to undergo interrogation in front of a judge under the penalty of a year's imprisonment for refusal. It also allowed Canadians' air travel to be tracked and the records kept for six years. Those measures pertaining to evidence and custody are to be reviewed after five years: the others are permanent.
The anti-terrorism law erodes the freedoms of all Canadians through procedures that undermine the rights of the defendant to remain silent and to know the charges against them. I argue that it directly targets people of Muslim heritage and has two particular consequences for them. The first is their profiling by security forces, especially at the borders (Hurst 2002; Makin 2003). The second is attempts by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the RCMP to collect intelligence from persons active within the Muslim community or from Muslims whose immigration status is precarious (such as foreign students or asylum seekers whose files are being examined by authorities). These attempts, justified by the need for intelligence on the possible existence of Islamist networks in Canada, are extremely detrimental for Muslims. They create suspicion in people's minds about the presence of Muslim extremists in Canada and the Muslim population's failure to report their existence to the authorities. Consequently, it constitutes a serious infringement on the rights of Canadian Muslims and has, as a result, been criticized by Muslim representatives.
Systemic discrimination against members of ethno-cultural minority groups feeds on various unjust practices: refusal to hire; requiring additional qualifications; or offering lower wages. On average, immigrants are paid less than natives who have the same level of schooling. (13) According to the 2001 census, in 2000, immigrant men earned an average wage of 63.1 cents compared to one dollar for natives with similar levels of schooling. In 1980, the ratio was 71.6 cents for males who immigrated that year. Moreover, in 2000, male immigrants living in Canada for ten years received an average of 79.8 cents compared to one dollar paid to natives with similar levels of schooling. In 1980, the rate of pay was equal (one dollar for all). For women, the ratio was then, and is now, even more unfavorable. Thus, immigrants who have arrived since the 1980s, a significant number of them Muslims, surfer a structural disadvantage.
A study by Pendakur (2000) also shows that people from non-European origins experience a clear disadvantage in the Canadian job market even after age and education levels are controlled for. On average, their income was eight percent lower compared to people of European origin. Additionally, though census data shows that the percentage of visible minorities with a post-secondary diploma is higher than that of other Canadians, this fact is not reflected in the distribution of occupations. Only the business and engineering sectors show similar rates of employment between natives and immigrants (Kunz, Milan, and Schetagne 2001), and the computer science and advanced technologies sectors are the only true cultural mosaics in terms of the composition of the personnel.
These data do not, (11) however, allow us to know if people of Muslim heritage experience occupational and income disadvantages, then and now. In addition, one cannot speak about systemic discrimination in accessing jobs in the public sector, although recent immigrant groups are under-represented in this sector. According to the 1996 census, 5.9 percent of federal public office jobs were held by members of "visible minorities" (Working Group 2000). The precise situation of people of Muslim heritage is unknown. The same observation holds in the housing market, another field where systemic discrimination exists.
In a 1985 judgment (Ontario Human Rights Commission vs. Simpsons Sears Ltd., 1985, 2R.C.S. 536), the Supreme Court defined indirect discrimination as "discrimination through prejudicial effect," and created the "obligation of accommodation" to counter this effect. The case concerned a Seventh-day Adventist demanding the right to observe the Sabbath without giving up her full-time job at Simpsons Sears, which had refused her request. The Supreme Court ruled that a compromise had to reduce the discrimination suffered by the employee because of her faith and specified that the solution had to be reasonable, i.e., no undue hardship should be imposed on the employer, such as an exaggerated financial cost, reduction of safety requirements, denial of other employees' rights or of collective agreements, or other significant disadvantages. In this case, the work schedule could be adjusted to accommodate her request without causing undue hardship.
The spirit of this judgment can be applied to other working regulations as well as to other fields such as the offering of goods and services, be they private or public. Frequently, cases of conflicting cultural norms exist within a society illustrated by the diet of in-patients, prisoners, and children placed in foster homes, the provision of spaces of worship for minorities in the workplace and schools, medical practices, burial modes, or the disciplining of children (which can entail youth protection and parental authority laws).
The notion of reasonable accommodation imposes itself in Canada under the terms of the legislative text which calls for the promotion of a pluralist and equitable society (Multiculturalism Act 1988) and of Article 27 of the Canadian Charter which states that "The Charter shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians." Contrary to other Western countries, this notion represents a legal obligation and implies two principles. The first is paramount: no cultural arrangement can jeopardize a person's rights and freedoms and fundamental laws. Thus, respect for cultural differences can never contravene the basic principle of Canada's legal and political systems, which is respect for individual rights. No collective cultural right is granted to ethnic minorities that would enable them to create closed communities, such as the right to separate judicial courts. Cultural relativism is allowed in as much as this fundamental principle is applied. The second principle requires that the accommodation provided maintain a balance between the rights of the parties. The spirit of any reasonable arrangement is to avoid litigation and reduce cultural inequalities through negotiation.
Many religious accommodations have been adopted during the 1980s and 1990s because, as the Supreme Court stated in its 1985 judgment: "A tiny inconvenience is the price to pay for freedom of religion in a multicultural society." In Quebec, numerous examples could be presented which demonstrate how the spirit of the judgement has been applied. At the Montreal Childrens' Hospital, parents of minority patients are allowed to bring meals to their hospitalized children, and a manually-opened door has been installed to allow Hassidic Jews to visit patients on the Sabbath; in public schools, a flexible pedagogical day is scheduled so that Orthodox, Coptic, and Catholic children can celebrate Easter on their respective dates; and at the Polytechnic school, examinations are held on weekdays to accommodate Judaic students (Conseil des relations interculturelles et de l'immigration 1993).
But other requests gave rise to trials, the most publicized of which were the following: a Hassidim group demanded the right to put erouv wire in one district (granted by the Quebec Superior Court, June 2001), and a student demanded the right to carry a Kirpan at school (disallowed by the same court, 2004).
In the case of the Muslim population, before the 1980s, an agreement was reached between the City of Montreal and two Muslim organizations to open a Muslim space in two cemeteries, and one of these organizations (Al Islam) was given the right to celebrate and record marriages. During the 1980s and 1990s, Muslim girls were awarded the right to wear a more modest uniform during physical education classes, and Muslim pupils were granted a two-hour period to observe Friday congregational prayer. In certain Canadian organizations, the work schedule was adjusted to create three free periods per day to allow Muslim employees time to pray. In municipal swimming pools, a three-hour period, divided between boys and girls, has been reserved for young Muslims, and in two anglophone universities Muslim students were given space for prayers.
However, some requests made by the Muslim community were not granted. Muslim sections were not created in the cemeteries of any cities other than Montreal, a Quebec Provincial Police employee's request not to translate the recording of a conversation collected through eavesdropping (because his religion prohibited denunciation) was denied, as was the request of a Montreal Police Department employee to stop assessing parking tickets for reasons of conscience (he considered assessing parking tickets to be a form of repression). Based on these refusals among others, it appears that Muslims are targeted more in terms of the frequency and extent of the conflict surrounding accommodations, as Mc Andrew recognized (2002:138): "The religious prescriptions of Jehovah's Witnesses are more questionable at the level of pupils' success and psycho-social integration and contrary to the school's function of critical education, but they never get the same publicity as those of Muslims" (my translation).
However, since September 2001, the situation in Quebec and throughout Canada is characterized not by a higher number of requests, refusals, or acceptances of religious accommodations related to Muslim demands, but rather, by one new trend--the coverage of these cases by the media.
"Usual" discrimination remains difficult to prove because of the lack of proof of the denial of freedoms or basic rights, but certain facts lead us to assume it plays a definitive role.
A survey conducted across Canada (Angus Reid 1991) demonstrated that persons of Muslim heritage were victims of unfavorable perceptions before September 2001. Almost all respondents said they felt more comfortable with Natives than with immigrants, and even less comfortable with the Indo-Pakistani, Sikh, Black, West-Indian, Arab, and Muslim groups. In the fall of 2001, 82 percent of Canadians feared that Arabs and Muslims would become the target of discrimination (IPSOS-Reid), but almost one year later, in July 2002, according to a CROP survey on the religious beliefs of persons 16 to 35 years of age, 76 percent of Quebec respondents and 55 percent of other Canadian respondents thought that religion causes conflict between people, and 17 percent of the former and 13 percent of the latter thought that Islam promotes confrontational relations (Le Devoir, July 22 2002). In August 2002, according to another IPSOS-Reid survey, 45 percent of Quebecers, 37 percent of Albertans, 33 percent of Ontarians, and 22 percent of British Columbia residents agreed with the statement: "The September 11 attacks made me more mistrustful of Arabs or Muslims coming from the Middle-East" (as noted in the introduction, the majority of Canadians of Middle Eastern origin are established in Quebec and Ontario). In fact, according to a survey conducted by Leger Marketing in September 2002, 33 percent of Canadian respondents declared they had heard racist comments against Muslims and Arabs.
The terrorist acts of September 11 and the measures adopted by the Canadian government to control the borders also had a notable effect on the attitudes of Canadians toward immigration. According to an August 2002 survey conducted by the Association for Canadian Studies, 43 percent of respondents indicated that Canada accepted too many immigrants from Arab countries, 40 percent from Asian countries, 24 percent from Africa, 21 percent from Latin America, and 16 percent from Europe. When respondents feared a future terrorist attack in North America, the percentages increased: 49 percent wanted a reduction of Arab immigration and 47 percent of Asian immigration. In November 2002, another survey by Maclean's magazine, Global TV, and The Citizen indicated the same trend: 44 percent of Canadians wanted a reduction of immigration from Muslim countries. The highest percentage was in Quebec: 48 percent agreed versus 45 percent in Ontario, 42 percent in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, 43 percent in the Maritimes, 39 percent in British Columbia, and 35 percent in Alberta. A year earlier, the average percentage favoring a reduction of immigration from Arab countries was 49 percent.
By mid-March of 2003, the week the English-American war on Iraq began (a war not endorsed by the Canadian government), 70 percent of the 2,002 Canadians polled by the Association for Canadian Studies and the Environics Research Group "see intolerance towards immigrants and ethnic groups as a serious problem in Canada, and 68 percent harbor concerns over anti-Arab sentiment, 54 percent worry about anti-Semitism, and 55 percent about an anti-Black sentiment. But still 30 percent felt Arabs project a negative image, while 38 percent felt the same about Aboriginals, 13 percent about Blacks, and 11 percent about Jews" (Jayoush 2003).
According to these polls, negative stereotypes of Muslims appear to be held by at least a third of the Canadian public, with no significant change since the 1990s or between September 2001 and March 2003. Since 2001, however, some Canadian media outlets have fed that negative perception.
Over the past twenty years, an increase in violent events in Muslim countries and violent activities involving individuals of the Muslim faith gave rise to abundant media coverage intended for a Western general audience. This is particularly true for the Israeli/Palestinian conflict; the wars in Lebanon, Bosnia, Kosovo, the Persian Gulf, the Caucasus, Afghanistan and Iraq, and the September 2001 attacks. Coverage of these events, like that of other current events, tends to omit past and present socio-political analysis of the conflicts (Helly 2002). Moreover, the coverage frequently reproduces the Orientalist archetype (Said) of an insurmountable gap between Islam and other monotheist religions, in addition to ignoring the evolution of Western and Islamic cultures and countries.
Canadian media coverage of events concerning countries or people of Muslim heritage since September 2001 constitutes one of the most significant criticisms leveled by Canadian Muslim organizations. The main critique is the constant usage of Islam to qualify positions and political actions. We often hear about "Muslim extremists" or "Islamic militants," whereas religious qualifications are generally omitted when similar positions or actions by people of other religions are discussed. In one interview (Weld 2003), Wahida Valiante, vice-president of the Canadian Islamic Congress, explained: "We never refer to those involved in the Northern Ireland conflict as Catholic terrorists. In dealing with Bosnia and Kosovo, there were Christian and Orthodox terrorists, but they were never called that, though there was much discussion of Muslim Bosnian terrorists."
According to a CAIR-CAN investigation involving 296 Canadian Muslims in 2001, 56 percent said that Canadian media coverage had become more biased with regard to Islam and Muslims after September 2001, while 13 percent declared it had improved. In the view of the first group, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), The Toronto Star, and The Globe and Mail were the most objective media, while The National Post, Global Television, and The Ottawa Citizen were the most hostile to Islam (Press release, May 9 2002; Alternative Perspective, September 2002). Also, the 181 participants in the discussion groups on the condition of "Canadian-Muslim women" (Hussain 2002:28) agreed that the CBC had presented balanced information regarding the events of September 11, 2001, especially with two of its programs, "The National" and "The Passionate Eye."
Since 1998, the Canadian Islamic Congress has published Anti-Islam in the Media, an annual study of the coverage of eight Canadian newspapers (The Globe and Mail, La Presse, The National Post, The Ottawa Citizen. The Gazette. The Toronto Star, The Toronto Sun, and The Winnipeg Free Press). Each study counts the articles containing biased or offensive terms with regard to Muslims and allots a rating of these terms according to two criteria: their appearance in front page titles and their repetition in the same article, and the newspaper's circulation (CIC 2002:10). On Match 23 2003, the Canadian Race Relations Foundation awarded the Canadian Islamic Congress the prize for excellence for its Anti-Islam in the Media 2002 report.
While The National Post was classified as the least-biased newspaper and The Globe and Mail as the most biased in 1999, (12) since 2000, The National Post has been rated the most hostile. A renewal of anti-Muslim stereotypes was notable from September 12 through November 28 2001 in a number of other publications: "Negative or biased information on Islam" was found to appear ten times more often than over the previous months in The Toronto Star, 18 times more in The Globe and Mail, and 22 times more in The National Post (CIC 2001). A similar conclusion was drawn from a study of The Vancouver Sun (Enns 2002). In the 2002 CIC report, The Globe and Mail, which appeared to eliminate biased terms over those months, found itself, together with The Winnipeg Free Press, among the publications least condemned by the organization.
The position of The National Post results from its control by a media conglomerate (Can West Global) whose owners use their editorial authority to promote anti-Muslim positions and support for the Sharon government. Their newspapers, The Ottawa Citizen, The Gazette, and The National Post, have, since 2000, held their position as the top three newspapers most unfavorable to Muslims. They focus more on the rise of anti-Semitism than on discrimination against Muslims (CIC 2002:13), but The Gazette covered these two subjects in a series of articles in September 2002. As examples of bias and/or malevolent inconsistency in The National Post articles, one published on August 15 2002 read: "Attacking infidels. Terrorists target the West for only one reason: its religious values," and supported its thesis by describing the assassination of 400 people in Algeria during the period of fasting in 2001. After September 11, the paper published comments (the first in September 2001, the second in March 2002; both written by George Jonas) such as: "From the beginning, Western attempts to draw a distinction between Islamist terrorists and Islam resulted in a lop-sided effort" and "The terrorist enemy has no armies to send against us; it has to penetrate our perimeter through fifth columnists" (Elmasry 2002).
In 2002, the CIC and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) carried out a pilot study on the evening news of three television networks, CTV, Global, and CBC, over a period of 60 days. CBC was rated as the network having presented the most negative references to Islam. Coverage by radio stations has not yet been studied, though some appear to have developed anti-Islam stereotypes. On July 8 2002, Mr. Green declared on CFRA 580 AM, an Ottawa-based station, "North America--democracy--the Christian faith--is under attack, not just in North America, but elsewhere around the world"; the threat "comes almost exclusively from Muslim men." A complaint was later filed with the CRTC by CAIR-CAN.
Researchers sought to learn whether the attacks of September 2001 led Quebec French-speaking journalists to delineate a link between terrorism and immigration. Piche and Djerrahian (2002) analyzed 78 articles published in La Presse and Le Devoir between September 11 and October 31 2001 and concluded, if "the consensus on immigration has been broken after September 11, (13) the majority of publications remain on the side of moderation." They did not deem it obligatory that the fight against terrorism lead to a re-examination of immigration law (p. 82, my translation) because a counter-argument was often presented, that is, the pressure exerted by the United States to conduct such a review. According to Pietrantonio's 2002 analysis of articles published on September 12, 13,