Canadian anti-racism and civil liberties organisations have urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to establish a national action plan to dismantle 300 far-right and white supremacist groups operating in Canada.
The open letter, published on Monday by the National Council of Canadian Muslims and signed by Amnesty International and the Canadian Anti-Hate Network (CAHN) among others, follows the murder of Mohamed-Aslim Zafis outside of a Toronto mosque on September 12.
Police say Zafis, the caretaker of the mosque, was sitting in a chair when a suspect walked up to him and stabbed him in the neck.
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Guilherme (William) von Neutegem, 34, has been arrested and charged with first-degree murder. The mosque has called for the killing to be investigated as a hate crime and the Toronto police were considering such a move, according to Canadian media reports.
CAHN said von Neutegem’s social media accounts appear to show that he is connected to racist and Nazi-inspired occult movements.
“This attack did not happen in isolation. This attack is one in a long series of a chain of horrifying attacks on racialised communities in Canada,” the letter said.
“Canadians, whether from Indigenous, Black, Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, Christian or other faith and racialised communities have faced attacks on our homes, our places of worship, and our congregants at the hands of white supremacist organisations.
“We are calling on the federal government to establish a national action plan on dismantling white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups … ”
Canada’s largest threat
According to Barbara Perry, director of the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism at Ontario Tech University, far-right violence is Canada’s largest threat.
Perry’s research showed that in 2015, about 100 far-right groups were operating in Canada. There are now more than 300 such groups, according to the letter. Some of these groups train with explosives and live ammunition, it added.
“Others have shown up to intimidate racialised communities – and they operate from coast to coast. Therefore, we need bipartisan action from all political parties to counter these groups.”
In June 2019, Canada for the first time added right-wing groups to its list of outlawed “terrorist entities”. The groups have conducted murders and bombings, Canada’s public safety ministry said.
But “far more” needs to be done, the letter said.
According to Statistics Canada, hate crimes against Muslims in Canada more than doubled between 2012 to 2015, increasing from 99 to 159 incidents in 2015 alone.
A report published in June found that Canada produces more online hate content than anywhere else in the world.
The report by UK-based think-tank, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, found that Canadians were involved in more than 6,600 right-wing extremist channels online.
Muslims were found to be the most common target of posts containing explicit hate speech.