Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck:
Honourable senators, I rise today to applaud Rubab Qureshi who participated in the Daughters of the Vote program on Parliament Hill on April 3. In her speech, she asked for substantive action by the government to combat the rise of White nationalism and Islamophobia in Canada. She asked Prime Minister Trudeau during the event whether members of online communities would be penalized or put on terrorist watch lists for openly disseminating Islamophobic or White supremacist ideas.
When they’re perpetrating this rhetoric, I want them to stop and think, “If I join this group online, will I be prevented from going to America next week, or could I be charged with hate speech?” That is why I asked for a specific policy.
The video of the brief exchange between her and the Prime Minister went viral. In the days following the program, Ms. Qureshi received an overwhelming barrage of hate via social media. Among them was a message from a stranger containing screenshots of hateful memes from a Facebook group which stated:
These hijabs probably make a really nice basket after you cut off their head. An eye for an eye.
Along with the hateful comments were the names of every Muslim delegate who had participated in the event. The intense and disturbing online hatred directed to Ms. Qureshi is evidence of the rise of White nationalism and Islamophobia in Canada. As she stated:
We are reluctant to address it because we like to think it doesn’t exist in Canada . . . To pretend like these comments are some niche group of people is ridiculous. And even if you were to say it’s not as big of an issue here as in the States, that is no excuse to avoid it.
To prevent the rise of such extremism, Qureshi wants to see tangible deterrents, such as policies that could see members of extremist groups put on terrorist watch lists, banning them from international travel and preventing them from meeting in online spaces.
In the days following the tsunami of virulent social media posts, Ms. Qureshi was, of course, concerned for her safety. Nonetheless, despite acknowledging she was “scared for her life,” she tweeted out the screenshots that night, saying they were the “kind of racist rhetoric” she intended to address, rhetoric that “consistently incites hate speech” and “violence” towards racialized women.
Honourable senators, I applaud Rubab Qureshi for her courage and support her request for the implementation of specific policies to combat Islamophobia or white supremacist ideology. Thank you.