(March 9, 2016) – Today, the legal community in British Columbia launched the Islamophobia Legal Assistance Hotline, after a nationwide increase in reported incidents of racial and faith-related discrimination against Canadian Muslims in recent months.
“Discrimination against Muslims, and people perceived to be Muslims, is an intolerable and ongoing reality in Canada,” said Hasan Alam, a Vancouver lawyer who has helped to organize the hotline.
“The heated rhetoric of last year’s election built on years of divisive politics that repeatedly singled out Muslim Canadians and treated them as less worthy,” added Alam. “This has made Muslims more vulnerable to discriminatory treatment and hate crimes. It’s important to make sure that people who experience this hateful treatment can access help, which could include filing a complaint or contacting the police.”
The hotline will connect individuals who have experienced discrimination with free, confidential legal advice and information.
The hotline is being run by Access Pro Bono Society of BC, a non-profit that assists individuals of limited means to obtain free legal services.
Staff at Access Pro Bono will receive the calls and connect those in need of assistance with lawyers who are willing to provide a free legal advice or information.
Interpretation will be available in order to provide services in multiple languages.
“Islamophobia can be experienced in many different ways,” said Sarah Khan, staff lawyer at the B.C. Public Interest Advocacy Centre. “We have heard reports of harassment, violent attacks, racial profiling, property destruction and threats from across the country.”
“Islamophobia affects everyday Canadians as they go about their lives, their schooling and their work,” noted Khan. “As a legal community, it is our duty to pull together and ensure that people who affected by this racism are able to protect their rights.”
The Islamophobia Legal Assistance Hotline will also document, without individually identifying information, the types of issues that are being reported in order to better understand the scope of the problem in British Columbia.
The number is 604-343-3828. Members of the public can also learn about the service at islamophobiahotline.ca.
“We want to help empower people to respond to this discrimination by making legal support more easily available,” said Aleem Bharmal, Executive Director of the Community Legal Assistance Society.
“Many people who experience this sort of discrimination may not even know that there might be legal options available to respond, depending on what happened, such as filing a discrimination complaint at the Human Rights Tribunal. We want to make sure people can get the advice that they need,” he said.