Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights Releases Report on Islamophobia

By Adriel N. Clayton and Terrance S. Carter

Nov 2023 Charity & NFP Law Update
Published on November 30, 2023



The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights (the “Committee”) released a 79-page report, entitled Combatting Hate: Islamophobia and its Impact on Muslims in Canada (the “Report”), on November 2, 2023. The Report reflects a year-long project which saw the Committee undertake 21 public meetings and received testimony from 138 witnesses, including Terrance S. Carter, who was called as an expert witness before the Committee on February 13, 2023 (discussed on pages 52-53 of the Report).

The Report begins by stating that Islamophobia is on the rise, and is not an unusual experience for many Muslim-Canadians. Based on witness testimonies, data, and input from Muslim communities, the Report presents 13 recommendations aimed at addressing Islamophobia in Canada.

The Report is structured into four sections. Briefly, section one focuses on understanding intersectional discrimination, and discusses how the impact of Islamophobia is compounded as a result of its intersection with other forms of discrimination, including those related to gender, race, disability, and sexual orientation. Section two outlines recent examples of Islamophobic hate crimes in Canada, discusses the role of law enforcement, including its legal framework in response to hate crimes, and provides policy recommendations to address this issue. Section three explores stereotypes and misinformation about Islam, and emphasizes the role that education and federal institutions both play in confronting misinformation and hate speech.

Of particular interest, section four focuses on addressing systemic Islamophobia, and includes a section on discrimination in the charitable sector. In this regard, the Committee heard from witnesses that “charitable works are the heart of Muslim communities, but that Muslim charities are disproportionately targeted by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for audit and revocation.” The Report further states that “it is clear that [the CRA’s Review and Analysis Division’s] work to date – regardless of the intentions of its employees – has demonstrated structural bias against Muslim charities.”

The Report acknowledges that systemic Islamophobia is pervasive, affecting areas such as national security, secularism, workplace discrimination, and the correctional system. While the Report highlights egregious instances, it underscores the equally harmful nature of systemic Islamophobia in less visible contexts. For example, beyond audits for national security, the Report found that “Muslim charities are often discriminated against based on misconceptions of Islam, and bias that views valid religious activities as primarily those that resemble Christian practices.”

As well, of note to the charitable sector, Recommendations number 9, 10 and 11 deal with aspects of the regulation of charities (see our March 2023 Charity & NFP Law Update), as follows:

Recommendation 9

That the Government of Canada introduce legislation requiring the Canada Revenue Agency to collect and publish data on religious organizations subject to audits and revocations, and to analyse such data to develop a strategy to reduce bias.

Recommendation 10

That the Minister of National Revenue review the mandate and functioning of the Review and Analysis Division of the Canada Revenue Agency, taking into account the conclusions of the pending review by the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency.

Recommendation 11

That the Department of Justice introduce legislation to establish an independent civilian body to review decisions of the Canada Revenue Agency’s Charities Directorate and provide timely decisions on appeals.

The Report emphasizes the urgent need to confront Islamophobia, which it states is “a serious and growing problem in Canadian society.” Stressing the right of Canadians to practice their religion and feel secure, it calls for a reversal of the “disturbing rise of violence and hatred stemming from Islamophobia”. The Report also underscores the necessity of addressing systemic disadvantages faced by Muslims through legislative changes, policy reforms, and broader cultural shifts. The 13 recommendations outlined in the Report reflect concerns voiced by communities across Canada, with a call for urgent action from the federal government and a collective responsibility for all Canadians, including politicians and legislatures, to foster an inclusive society.


Read the November 2023 Charity & NFP Law Update