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Federal government anti-hate envoys discuss rising Islamophobia, antisemitism in Canada amid Israel-Hamas war


The two women appointed to advise the federal government on how to combat antisemitism and Islamophobia say that to counter the rise in hate in Canada amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, it’s critical to forge a path ahead together through respectful, “constructive dialogue,” and “creating space for education.”

“And ensuring that we are, yes, having respectful dialogue, and understanding that some discourse, not everyone's going to agree … but it must be done in ways that are rooted in those values of what it means to be Canadian, what it means to live in a country of so many backgrounds,” said Amira Elghawaby, special representative on combating Islamophobia. 

In an interview with CTV’s Question Period host Vassy Kapelos airing Sunday, Elghawaby and Deborah Lyons, the federal government’s special envoy on preserving Holocaust remembrance and combating antisemitism, sat down together for an extensive conversation about how to counter hate in Canada.

This week in Montreal, Molotov cocktails were found at a synagogue and Jewish community centre, and shots were later fired at two Jewish schools.

Meanwhile, a newly released Senate report on Islamophobia is warning urgent action is needed, concluding that "the disturbing rise of violence and hatred stemming from Islamophobia is a trend that needs to be reversed."

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also stopped for more than 10 minutes to address reporters specifically on the issue of the rise of hate in Canada since the current war in the Middle East began on Oct. 7.

"We're seeing right now a rise in antisemitism that is terrifying," he said.

"This is something that is not acceptable in Canada, period,” he also said. “And period, the rise of Islamophobia we're seeing across this country and around the world is also unacceptable."

Lyons — a career diplomat who took over the job as special envoy from former federal justice minister Irwin Cotler just last month — said the spike in hatred and violence is making Jewish people “feel unsafe, and not supported, and insecure in their own communities.”

“I also am very committed to this because I have lived and worked as a diplomat in countries where you could see the sliding back of democratic values, of openness, of justice, of support for rule of law,” she said. “I see how quickly it happens. We cannot allow it to happen in Canada and our Jewish community certainly doesn't want that to happen.”

Elghawaby emphasized that it’s important to come together and lean into Canada’s “cherished values,” despite many “feeling excruciating pain right now.”

When asked about the significance of having a conversation that includes both antisemitism and Islamophobia together, Lyons responded, "I know that the way out of this is from our communities coming together."

"This is a huge challenge. But we cannot fail at it, and we'll only succeed if we're able to demonstrate that the community has come together," she added.

Elghawaby and Lyons’ discussion with Kapelos is in the video player at the top of this article.

With files from CTV’s Question Period Senior Producer Stephanie Ha 




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