On 1 February 2017, protesters from all over Toronto gathered at Thorncliffe Park for a rally against Islamophobia and xenophobia. The rally was one among many in a nation-wide response to a Quebec mosque shooting which occurred on 29 January 2017. The protesters strongly condemned the recent worldwide increase of xenophobia, islamophobia and anti-Semitism. Attended by a number of notable politicians and social workers, the rally aimed to spread peace and love among all cultures, races, and religion. The Muslim Student Association (MSA) and Politics Club of Garneau (POG) participated in the organization of the rally.

About 400 protesters gathered in front of the Thorncliffe public library at 2 pm for the rally. Premier Kathleen Wynne opened with a speech, followed by words from City Councilor John Burnside and Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office social workers. The rally then went on a march through Thorncliffe Park and ended at the East York Town Centre Mall.

When asked about the march, Ms. Wynne said, “When there is an attack on our loved ones, on Canadians, we feel that we need to come together and stand against this injustice. This type of hatred rises from fear of the difference that Muslims, Jews or any foreigner have. And to combat that we need more people to show that they are not different, they are humans just like us and we love them.” Many MGCI staff members were also present, including Ms. Goldenberg, who said, “To have so many people in a short span of time shows how united we are in this fight. Everyone is doing a great job. I am proud of my students from different clubs getting involved as well as reporting this. I will make an announcement as soon as possible so everyone knows what we are doing.”

The atmosphere was very pleasant and the protesters and residents of Thorncliffe seemed to enjoy themselves. Dances were held and music was played to accompany the marchers. Cars passing by honked their horns to show support to the movement. A few police teams patrolled the area, but the rally ran peacefully. Many prominent news channels, including CP24 and CTV covered the march.

City Councilor Mr. Burnside said, “If we can take the energy from these rallies and spread it, I believe we can eradicate Xenophobia very soon. An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.” When asked if the recent rise of the 45th American President, Donald Trump, is a cause of this, he said, “I do not agree with his policies but I am certain he did not cause this. Maybe the increase in hatred is what got him elected, but I believe he is a righteous man and he will fight it in America.”

Firaz Alvarez, student at MGCI and President of POG said, “Although I’m not a Muslim, I helped in this rally because I think it is very wrong that my friends have to suffer for this. But I also think if this rally was held in a more non-Muslim area, it would spread the message better. Mr. Trudeau is amazing as he declared an attack on Muslims a terrorist attack. It makes me think we are on the right track.”

All participants agreed that the march sent the message that discrimination and xenophobia are unacceptable. The event showed support for the victims of hate crimes. Due to cold weather, the march was cut short; protesters ended by hugging each other as a sign of love and unity.

Photo: Ungbeen Khalid and Firaz Khan