December 18, 2020

The Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) denounces the recent misogynist, racist, and Islamophobic attacks on several hijab-wearing Black women in Edmonton. We issue this statement to express our solidarity with the Somali, Muslim, and Black communities of Edmonton. 

We understand that women in these communities, particularly Somali women who wear the hijab, have often been subjected to inappropriate verbal harassment. These recent attacks demonstrate how verbal harassment can escalate into physical violence. The perpetrators of these attacks targeted Black women wearing hijabs in public places – a parking lot at a shopping centre and a transit centre. These women were attacked because of their identities. The attacks were motivated by racism and hatred, as the Edmonton Police Service has recognized, and also by misogyny. 

These attacks inflicted severe harm on the individual women that were targeted. They have also caused real harms to the affected communities, spreading anxiety and fear.

As an organization dedicated to advancing the equality rights of women, girls, and all who face gender-based discrimination, LEAF calls for action to address gender-based and racist violence. This year, the need for action is more urgent than ever. COVID-19 has exacerbated existing gender inequalities, leaving women, girls and gender diverse people more vulnerable to violence. Women, girls and gender diverse people deserve to be free from violence and to feel secure and fully able to participate in all aspects of public life.

In the specific context of the misogynist, racist, and Islamophobic attacks that have occurred in Edmonton, LEAF urges the municipal and provincial governments and related entities to take seriously and implement the measures called for by the affected communities. We specifically echo the community calls for education programs to enhance respect and to counteract misogyny and racism. These events also reinforce the need for bystander training programs, to help community members learn how to assist those who are subjected to harassment in public places, and to call out such harassment as unacceptable. Action is urgently needed to address the misogyny, racism, and Islamophobia that manifested themselves most recently in Edmonton, but have also happened in other communities across Canada.

For further information, please see the statement by the Sahaba Mosque in Edmonton.