Fredericton marches against Islamophobia

Despite subzero temperatures, approximately 250 people gathered in front of Fredericton City Hall on Feb. 4 for the March Against Islamophobia and Deportations.

The event was organized after the Jan. 29 shooting in a Quebec mosque that killed six people.

“It was a wake-up call, but it was an expensive wake-up call, because people lost their lives,” said Abdelhaq Hamza of the Fredericton Islamic Association.

The march was organized primarily by No One is Illegal Fredericton, a chapter of an international migrant justice group that advocates for humane immigration and refugee policies.

Five speakers from various organizations spoke on the city hall steps about education, activism and the policy changes they demand, including the scrapping of the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement, which requires refugees to make their claim in the first country they arrive in unless they qualify for an exception.

One heckler with a megaphone tried to interrupt the organizers as they began to speak, but was quickly drowned out by the crowd chanting, “Love trumps hate.”

One of the speakers was St. Thomas University professor Gül Çaliskan. She referenced the acts of kindness and support shown to the Muslim community in Canada in the wake of the attack in Quebec.

“It is this love that fills my heart. I have hope,” she said.

The Fredericton march was one of many taking place across Canada on the same day. Marchers were given yellow ribbons to tie around their arms as a symbolic gesture of solidarity with all religions. Yellow was the colour used to welcome refugee families arriving in Fredericton last year.

St. Thomas’ president and vice-chancellor Dawn Russell was also in attendance.

“All faiths, all ethnic backgrounds must be respected and welcomed, and its important particularly in New Brunswick where we have had such a large welcoming of refugees to confirm they are, indeed, welcome,” she said.

Brianna Matchett, fourth-year human rights student at St. Thomas, went to the march to speak out against the travel ban in the United States and the reinforcement of Islamophobia.

“I think [marches] show solidarity, like I think it’s naïve to think that just showing up to marches is going to help anything,” Matchett said.

“But as long as we all take into consideration in our daily lives that this stuff is going on in the world and this stuff is actually going on around us … we just need to show each other that we’re all equally human and we’re all equally deserving of life, liberty and happiness.”

After the speeches, organizers lead marchers in the -13 degree Celsius weather down Queen Street, up Westmorland Street, and onto King Street, finishing the march by returning to city hall.

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