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 Muslims in recent months. The hotline will connect individuals who have experienced discrimination with free, confidential legal advice and information. The number is 604-343-3828. Members of the public can also learn about the service at islamophobiahotline.ca
“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. 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 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.
“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.”
“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. 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.”
Krisha Dhaliwal of the South Asian Bar Association of B.C. added: “Anti-Muslim racism, discrimination and hatred affect members of many different communities in B.C. It extends beyond Muslims to others who may be mistaken for Muslims, including Sikhs. Lawyers and law students are standing together, shoulder to shoulder, to combat discrimination against Muslims and other people of colour.”
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 Hotline was launched with the support of Access Pro Bono Society, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, the B.C. Public Interest Advocacy Centre, the Community Legal Assistance Society, the Canadian Bar Association – BC Branch, the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers, Western Chapter, the National Council of Canadian Muslims, the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers, and the South Asian Bar Association of B.C.
For more information, contact:
Sarah Khan, Staff Lawyer, BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre, 604-687-3063, firstname.lastname@example.org
Aleem Bharmal, Executive Director, Community Legal Assistance Society, 778-239-2732, email@example.com
Zool Suleman, Lawyer, 604-685-8472, firstname.lastname@example.org
Hasan Alam, Lawyer, 778-995-6786, email@example.com
Krisha Dhaliwal, South Asian Bar Association of BC, 604-681-9887, firstname.lastname@example.org