Ismailis in Canada have often been called a “model minority”; and it’s a label that many cherish. Model minorities are generally perceived as those who have attained higher socioeconomic success than the average, and is measured through income, education and relative social mobility. Conversely many Ismailis perceive Canada to be a model country to settle and raise families. However, front line legal advocate Anushka Nagji and Alnoor Gova, a scholar researching the nexus of hate crimes, Islamophobia and national security laws, say that while Canada may have many advantages, and we are lucky to live here, being a model minority also comes with responsibilities that must be fulfilled. Our civic and moral responsibility is to constantly engage with government at all levels to improve lives of all Canadians.
Gova and Nagji point out that part of Canada’s appeal as a nation – the perceived rule of law, justice, equality and freedoms enshrined in the Constitution and Charter of Rights and Freedoms – is under threat and may soon be obsolete if radical action is not taken. The Canada we once knew, a beacon of equality, is quickly devolving into a police state. Fear of terrorism, Gova notes, “enables the government to implement policies and legislation that allow for mass surveillance, violations of the Charter and basic human rights, arrests and detentions without warrants and other terrifying intrusions and controls of all its citizens. In the name of national security, our human rights are in jeopardy”. It’s not hyperbolic to say so, nor are only Nagji and Gova sounding the alarm. Since 2001 these same rights and privileges that Canadians have enjoyed have been incrementally curtailed and with the passing of the Anti Terrorism Act 2015, the definitions of terrorism have been so broadened and generalized that every-day activities become suspect. This is why there has been a constant outcry of critique building to a crescendo by Canada’s leading civil liberties associations and groups including the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the BC Civil Liberties Association, and the Human Rights Monitoring Group. Warnings were issued by four former Canadian Prime Ministers, five former Supreme Court justices, dozens of security experts, ministers of justice, past members of the intelligence review committee, two former privacy commissioners and a retired RCMP watchdog, including Senator Jaffer who sits as a member of the Senate’s Anti-terrorism and Legal and Constitutional Affairs committees.
With less than a week left in the public consultation process being held by the federal government on national security, activists, legal scholars and grassroots media producers have come together to launch a radical online resource to encourage informed and meaningful participation with the goal of repealing the controversial Anti Terrorism Act 2015, colloquially known as Bill C-51.
The website www.antiterror.ca, created by Anushka Nagji, and Alnoor Gova, launched officially Monday December 5th, is meant to be a comprehensive tool for all members of the public to utilize in order to put pressure on the government to scale back the massive assault on citizens’ rights and privacies and actively consult with the public before any further legislation on national security is passed.
“This is not acceptable”, says Anushka Nagji, the lead interviewer for the audio series Unpacking Anti-Terrorism of more than two-dozen interviews (including Ismaili Senator Mobina Jaffer and immigration lawyer Zool Suleman) of leading Canadian experts on anti-terror legislation posted on the site, “consultations generally come at the beginning of a process, not in the middle – here we have a situation where a large number of Canadians and community organizations and virtually every civil liberties association across the country want the government to scrap the Act entirely, and the government, instead of doing so, is holding public consultations about the need for these laws. Radically changing definitions of what constitutes terrorism acts implicating peaceful protest and dissent, conscripting judges to break the law and override the constitution is not befitting of what we would and should call democracy – in fact it’s quite the opposite.”
Nagji and Gova suggest, if Ismailis wish to retain the aspects of the Canada that was, before it is eviscerated, then they must educate themselves on this issue and participate in these public consultations on national security, even after the formal consultations close there are opportunities to directly communicate to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale, Minister of Justice/Attorney General of Canada Jody Wilson-Raybould about repealing the bill and holding a comprehensive consultation process with the public about national security legislation.
Responses to and interpretation of anti-Muslim racism in Canada : a community perspective – https://open.library.ubc.ca/cIRcle/collections/ubctheses/24/items/1.0167825
The Impact of Racial Profiling: A MARU Society / UBC Law Faculty Study – Alnoor Gova and Rahat Kurd http://mbc.metropolis.net/assets/uploads/files/wp/2008/WP08-14.pdf