Canada’s anti-Islamophobia tsar is facing calls for her resignation after her previous criticism of Quebec came to light.
Amira Elghawaby authored an opinion piece in 2019 that denounced the Quebec government for legally prohibiting public servants from wearing hijabs or other religious symbols.
“As a Canadian Muslim and a Canadian Jew, we are both deeply concerned with the curtailments of religious freedoms in one of the nation’s largest provinces,” said Elghawaby and her co-authoer, Bernie Farber. Elghawaby and Farber said the passage of Bill 21 proved “we are all correct to fear the tyranny of the majority.”
Elghawaby said “Quebec’s Federal Court of Appeal itself ruled last fall that a judge had discriminated against a Muslim woman by asking her remove her headscarf to be heard,” but that “the majority of Quebecers appear to be swayed not by the rule of law, but by anti-Muslim sentiment.” She said Quebec “continues to deny the existence of Islamophobia” despite a “stark rise in hate crimes across Canada.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed Elghawaby to the newly created position on Jan. 26.
“Diversity truly is one of Canada’s greatest strengths, but for many Muslims, Islamophobia is all too familiar,” said Trudeau in his announcement. “We need to change that.”
After the article resurfaced, Elghawaby argued she was critical of the law and not the people of Quebec.
“Ahead of the sixth anniversary of the deadly attack on the Ste. Foy mosque and my new role as the special representative on combatting Islamophobia, I look to unify all Canadians across the country to fight Islamophobia,” she wrote on Twitter on Jan. 27. “I don’t believe that Quebecers are islamophobic my past comments were in reference to a poll on Bill 21. I will work with partners from all provinces and regions to make sure we address racism head on.”
Elghawaby then offered a public apology before meeting with Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet, the leader of the Quebec separatist party, on Feb. 1.
“I would like to say that I’m extremely sorry for the way that my words have carried, how they have hurt the people of Quebec, and this is what I’m going to express to Mr. Blanchet,” she said. “But I’m very glad to have the chance to express and to have a chance to listen, and this is what it’s all about. This is dialogue.”
“The choice of Ms. Elghawaby is the responsibility of Justin Trudeau, who entered into this appointment with an intentional hostility to the values of Quebec and its National Assembly,” wrote Blanchet in French on Twitter.
Quebec Secularism Minister Jean-François Roberge said he appreciates Eleghawaby’s gesture but maintains it was not enough to allow her to retain her appointment.
“I still don’t believe she has the credibility, the legitimacy to occupy the role the prime minister has given her,” Roberge told reporters, per Global News. “I think that now, the second thing for her to do is to submit her resignation.”
Trudeau said on Jan. 31 that he supports Elghawby “100%.”