The Canadian Arab Federation implores the Senate to reject Bill C-36

Toronto, December 5, 2001. The Canadian Arab Federation will appear before the Special Senate Committee on Bill C-36: the Anti-Terrorism Act to present the Canadian Arab community’s concerns with respect to the proposed anti-terrorism legislation. CAF will submit that Bill C-36 significantly erodes constitutional rights and freedoms. Many of the provisions are so drastic as to be indefensible. This government’s efforts to pass such blatantly unconstitutional legislation under the guise of fighting “terrorism” and defending national security will not be lost on the people and the judiciary of Canada. Dr. John Asfour, president of the Canadian Arab Federation said: ” when a segment of our society is afraid of its own government it is the duty of this government to evaluate its actions and policies. Today, Arab and Muslim Canadians are afraid of the impact of Bill C36″.

In it submission the federation calls on the Senate to exercise its power and recommend improvements and demand that the proposed act comprises safeguards that will protect Canadians rights and freedoms. CAF’s Submission was presented to the Senate Special Committee on Thursday December 6, 20001 at 8:30 A.M.

Media Contacts: Dr. John Asfour: (514) 213-6034

For more information, please contact CAF at 416-493-8635.

The Canadian Arab Federation condemns the Israeli invasion of Palestinian territories and the killing of innocent civilians

October 25, 2001 Israeli troops have killed at least 8-10 people in the village of Beit Rima in the occupied West Bank, which remains totally sealed off. According to Al-Jazira, the occupation forces are still at work in the village. Many bodies have been seen lying in the olive groves and injured people have been lying for hours in the streets. According to eyewitnesses, Israeli occupation forces have not permitted ambulances to enter the village. Consequently dead and injured people lay in the streets and in olive groves for hours unattended. Reports from the West Bank say at least eight Palestinians have been killed during an incursion into a village by Israeli forces.The village of Beit Rima near Ramallah has been sealed off since early morning when a column of Israeli tanks rolled in, firing on a Palestinian police outpost as they entered under a cover of darkness.Despite direct calls from President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell for Israel to immediately end its violent incursions into Palestinian cities and withdraw all its forces from the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip territories under Palestinian Authority control, Israel today gravely escalated its aggression. At least twenty six other Palestinians have been killed, including at least three children, since October 18 by Israeli occupation troops who have seized all or part of the cities of Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Ramallah, Qalqilya and Tulkarem, and tightened the siege on all other Palestinian towns and villages. Under the 1993 Oslo Accords and subsequent agreements, Israeli forces had withdrawn from eighteen percent of the occupied West Bank, areas now largely reoccupied by Israeli forces.

Alexa McDonough Visits the Arab Community

The Canadian Arab Federation and the National Council on Canada-Arab Relations welcomed the New Democratic Party Leader Alexa McDonough and NDP MPP Marilyn Churley to the national office of the Canadian Arab Federation. The Leader of the Federal NDP visited the national office of the Canadian Arab Federation in show of support and solidarity with the Arab Community at these difficult times. She called on the Liberal government to take aggressive action on racism starting with an educational advertising campaign. Her comment came in the light of a public opinion poll in which 50% of Canadians said they would be content with racial minority groups being singled out for security checks by police and other authority agencies at airports and border crossing. During the meeting she said: “The poll underlines the need for leadership at the political, community and faith levels to fight stereotyping. I am calling on the Canadian government to develop an action plan, including an advertising campaign to fight the scourge of racism and stop Canadians from turning on Canadians.” Dr. John Asfour, the president of CAF welcomed the NDP leader and thanked her on behalf of the Canadian Arab community. Dr. Asfour added: “the Canadian Arab and Muslim communities appreciate and recognise your vocal leadership in the House of Commons”. The NDP leader was quick to call for all political and community leaders to speak out against violence, intolerance and hatred of any kind directed at Arabs, Muslims and other visible minorities. It was an opportunity for community leaders and activists from the Arab and Muslim communities to share concerns, experience and suggestions with the leadership of the NDP. It was also an opportunity for the community and its leaders to address issues of racism, immigration and seeking effective ways to deal with terrorism without compromising civil rights and liberties of Canadians. Dr. Kubursi, president of the National Council thanked the leader of the NDP for her outreach to the community and urged the political leadership of our country to take into consideration some of the root causes behind terrorism and to address issues of justice, poverty and inequality. The visit of the Leader of the NDP comes after a series of telephone call to our offices from various political, community and faith leaders from across the country. Some of the leaders who called include Minister of Finance Paul Martin, The office of Hedy Fry, Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Status of Women, Howard Hampton the leader of Ontario NDP, and many others. CAF also recognises a press conference held at Queens Park by leaders of Ethnic groups speaking out strongly against the backlash and racial hatred directed toward Arabs and Muslims. Speakers form the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, Chinese National Council, Jamaican Canadian Association, Tamil Canadian Congress, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrant, Council of Agencies Serving South Asians and the Canadian Labour Congress. On behalf of the Canadian Arab community, CAF extends its heartfelt thanks to all political, cultural and faith leaders for their thoughts, prayers, supports and solidarity.

For more information, please contact CAF at 416-493-8635.

Arab Canadians condemn the attacks on the United States and are alarmed by hateful incidents and Arab and Muslim Bashing

September 18, 2001 The Canadian Arab Federation unequivocally condemns the tragic and horrific terror attacks in the United States. Our condolences go out to the innocent victims and their families. This action has created havoc in civil society and we encourage and support all efforts for restoration and normalcy. Moreover, we are disturbed by the assumptions from some of the media and other organizations of Arab and Muslim responsibilities for the attacks. Such sweeping conclusions have serious implications on our community. We are alarmed at the level of incidents of harassment and racism against Arabs and Muslims on both sides of the border. We urge caution and good exercise of judgement, as we do not want a repeat of Oklahoma whereby an entire community was erroneously blamed and unfairly targeted. We call on all Arab and Muslim Canadians to exercise caution and be vigilant of any incident and to swiftly report it to the proper authority and CAF. More importantly, we encourage the community to assist and donate in any way possible to the Canadian Red Cross and other humanitarian relief organizations in aid of the victims. Backlash against the Arab and Muslim communities following the September 11, 2001 attacks:

– Five students with Arabic sounding names assaulted by classmates in Oakville.

– A 43 year old man arrested in St. Catharines and charges with uttering death threats to the Islamic information centre in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

– Mosques and Islamic centers have been fired on and vandalized.

– Vicious emails calling Arabs “vermin”, violent telephone messages attacks on mosques and personal threats.

– A History teacher at Norman Bethune Collegiate in Scarborough said, “some students should be ashamed of themselves” clearly referring to Arab and Muslim students in the classroom.

– Air Canada employees are asked to call the police before boarding any passengers with Arab- sounding names.

– Women and girls especially targeted if they wear hijab.

– A Muslim woman was waiting for a commuter train in downtown Toronto when another woman passed by and said: “If I had a gun, I would shoot you right now.

– Islamic Foundation of Canada’s mosque on Nugget Ave., Scarborough, has received some hate phone messages.

– Niagara Islamic School in Niagara Falls remained closed after a threat to a related mosque.

– Islamic Information Centre on Bloor St. has received telephoned death threats.

– People fearing the loss of their jobs or termination of their contracts. A man called the office saying that his job was terminated because of his “behavior” towards the attacks. The man who is an assembly line worker states that he did not talk to anyone or know about the attacks until he finished his shift and went home.

– A graduate student from York University received an email from a professor accusing her “of taking pleasure” in the events. The student is deeply concerned about effect of such comments against her and other Arab and Muslim students.

– At the same time, CAF is heartened by the flow of email and telephone messages from ordinary Canadians and politicians expressing their concern with Arab and Muslim bashing and extending their solidarity and support to the community. We are especially grateful for the telephone calls to our office from Mr. Howard Hampton the Leader of the Ontario NDP, the Honorable Paul Martin, Finance Minister, the office of Hedy Fry, Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and a host of other political and community leaders from across the country.

CAF expresses serious Concerns with the Proposed New Charities Registration (Security Information Act)

March, 2001 The Canadian Arab Federation joins other groups and charitable agencies in expressing great concern with the proposed Charities Registration, (Security Information Act). In a joint statement released by Solicitor General Lawrence MacAulay and Minister of National Revenue Martin Cauchon, the Federal Government states that “the new Charities Registration (Security Information) Act will facilitate the use of classified information in determining whether an organization is eligible for registration as a charity by protecting that information during judicial review and ensuring due process and fairness”.

CAF echoes the sentiment that the federal government is using a “sledgehammer to kill a fly’. Some feel, rightly or wrongly, that this legislation is tailored to unfairly target certain ethnic groups and may operate on a perception of guilt by association. There is a fundamental and protected right provided to all Canadians, which is the freedom of association and lawful political participation, and this could be seriously threatened by this legislation. The proposed law does little to assure community groups who are concerned with potential repercussions on them. CAF, along with other groups, is concerned with and call attention to the following issues: First, the legislation does not provide a clear definition of “terrorism”.

This leaves the term to be broadly defined and open to unfair biases and discretion. The proposed law ignores that there exists lawful political participation in organizations engaged in national liberation movements. Secondly, the proposed law does not give the target charity being investigated the opportunity to cross-examine secret information and it sources. This violates the principle of fair trail and due process. We believe that this law has great implication on charitable organizations, ethnic groups and civil rights and freedoms of Canadians. This legislation has the potential of impinging Charter protected rights to free expression, association and lawful political participation. We call on the Solicitor General to take into consideration the concerns and fears of community groups who may be impacted of this legislation.

We believe that all new legislation must be consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Efforts must be made to protect the names of charities during investigations, an open and fair appeal method, a tightly-focused definition of what constitutes terrorism and terrorist acts, and clauses by which charities must be proven without question to have directly and knowingly supported terrorism.

For further information, please contact CAF at (416) 493-8635