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This article was published 17/10/2015 (673 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
MUSLIM and indigenous Canadians feeling targeted or ignored during the federal election campaign rallied together with a diverse mix of community groups outside the Manitoba legislature Saturday.
"We must unite together," Krishna Lalbiharie, one of the organizers, told the crowd of nearly 200 who gathered for the demonstration, dubbed Our Canada, One Canada.
Speakers from a variety of backgrounds and religions said they were there to denounce the divisive tone of this federal election campaign. The Conservatives made the niqab an election issue, and Muslims as a whole were targeted, while issues such as Canada’s more than 1,200 murdered and missing indigenous women were ignored, they said.
"It’s a shame of Canada and an embarrassment across the world," Lalbiharie said.
A New York Times op-ed piece Friday — headlined With anti-Muslim campaign, Canada has its Trump moment — suggested Prime Minister Stephen Harper is stoking Islamophobia to win votes.
"Effectively, Mr. Harper hopes to win his fourth term on Oct. 19 in part by demonizing those few who wear the niqab — and much of Canada’s Muslim population by extension," the article said.
Saturday’s peaceful protest was organized in response "to weeks of fear-based campaigning, in which Muslim and indigenous peoples in Canada… have been subjected to several hurtful and groundless attacks rooted in wedge politics designed to split public opinion, and to distract voters from addressing the important, salient election issues of the day," organizers said in a news release.
The issue of murdered and missing indigenous women is an important one, Lalbiharie told the crowd, pointing out the group of demonstrators camped out on the legislature grounds trying to draw attention to the issue.
Members of the crowd held up signs saying "Let’s not turn back time — our Canada is a multicultural country," "Say yes to unity, say no to fear" and "Stop Harper." Speakers from the Muslim, indigenous and Jewish communities pledged to support unity and one another.
Niigaan Sinclair, an indigenous activist and head of the native studies department at the University of Manitoba, said 500 years ago, newcomers here were welcomed as family. Today, Canada’s indigenous people and Muslims have been vilified and are "the most hated groups in the country," Sinclair said, holding his young son on the steps of the legislature.
He promised to stand with Muslim Canadians. "We are your brothers and sisters," said Sinclair.
"We must never only be for ourselves," Belle Jarniewski told the crowd. The Jewish woman is a founding member of the Muslim-Jewish Interfaith Dialogue Group and vice-president of the Manitoba Multifaith Council. She said the Canadian government’s weak response to accepting refugees from the predominantly Muslim Syria harkens back to another time.
She reminded the rally-goers that in 1939, Canada turned away 907 Jews aboard the SS St. Louis luxury ocean liner who were trying to escape the Holocaust. The immigration minister of the day declared he didn’t want "Canada to become the dumping ground for the world’s Jews," Jarniewski said.
"If I am not for myself, who is for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I?" she said, citing the famous quote by the Jewish leader Hillel during time of King Herod, "And if not now, when?"
Indigenous people, newcomers and Muslims "have been the target of hate in the this federal election campaign," Premier Greg Selinger said at the rally, before making a proclamation calling on all Manitobans to stand up for equality, human rights and diversity.
"Division directly undermines Manitoba’s values of acceptance, community and inclusivity," Selinger said. He asked Manitobans "to speak out peacefully and courageously against hatred in all its forms, so that discrimination and prejudice don’t stand a chance in our inclusive, multicultural province."