On October 18th, 2019, four days before Canadians headed to the polls for the 2019 federal election, Wilfrid Laurier University professor Jasmin Zine and two of her graduate students published the “Canadian Muslim Voting Guide,” a project funded by a federal Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) grant.

Zine leads the Canadian Islamophobia Industry Research Project (CIIRP), which is how she was able to obtain taxpayer funds to publish a document that “guides” Muslims through their political options. 

However, the Canadian Muslim Voting Guide reads more as political advocacy than unbiased social science research.

The guide assigns a grade to each federal political party leader’s response to “identified key issues of importance to the interests of Canadian Muslims and the wider geopolitical concerns that affect Muslims globally.” 

The guide begins with a section entitled “Alt-Right Groups & Islamophobia,” a section comprised of paranoid fear-mongering. The authors claim “Canadian white nationalist groups are gaining traction in the political sphere,” citing the Canadian Nationalist Party as an example. However, the extremely fringe Canadian Nationalist Party ended up receiving 0.0% of the overall popular vote, or 284 votes of the 17.9 million votes cast nationwide. 

The authors also declared Maxime Bernier, leader of the People’s Party (PPC), “blatantly xenophobic and Islamophobic” with policies that are “reinforcing far-right ideologies and white nationalism,” while only providing spurious evidence. The PPC received 1.6% of the popular vote in Monday’s election.

The guide also writes that Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer “has spoken at white nationalist rallies,” in reference to Scheer’s appearance at the pro-pipeline “United We Roll” rally on Parliament Hill in February. Numerous fact checks proven that this claim is untrue. 

Organizers of United We Roll went to great lengths to ensure the event focused on economic issues only, and that no controversial speakers or groups were invited.

Zine has written plenty of op-eds in the past on the topic of free speech, stating her views that “Right-wing ideologues use free speech as an alibi for their transphobic and Islamophobic rhetoric. It has become a tool for related neo-fascist groups to mount campaigns of vandalism, harassment and intimidation.”

However, Zine is inconsistent as to when she derides freedom of expression and when she champions it.

She shows contempt for freedom of expression in the guide’s section on Motion 103 – the motion that calls on the government to “condemn Islamophobia” – when she disparages Scheer and Bernier for being against M-103 in order to protect free speech and the ability to criticize religion. Yet, in the section on “Religious Freedom and Dress in Quebec (Bill 21 & Bill 62)” she emphasizes the importance of freedom of expression when it comes to allowing women to wear Islamic headscarves in Quebec.

In the section called “Immigration/Refugees”, Zine gives passing grades to the parties that advocate for open borders (The Liberals, NDP and Greens), and failing grades to parties that advocate for secure borders (the Conservatives and PPC). This assumes all Canadian Muslims desire open borders, and suggests the 1.1 million Muslims in Canada all have the same opinions on immigration policy.

In the section on the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, the guide doesn’t give any party a passing grade, as “no political party in Canada explicitly supports the BDS movement.” The BDS movement is an anti-Semitic movement that unfairly demonizes Israel and seeks to bankrupt Jewish business owners. Zine’s analysis assumes that BDS is good for Canadian Muslims and that all Muslims in Canada should support it.

Jewish organization B’nai Brith Canada stated they are “deeply concerned after learning that a federal grant was used to produce a guide instructing Canadian Muslims on how to vote in last Monday’s national election.” 

B’nai Brith Canada takes issue with the Voting Guide’s section on the BDS movement, as they regard the movement to be anti-Semitic. 

They pointed out that Zine received $24,923 in SSHRC grants in 2018, and in response argued “It is totally unacceptable that government funds have been used to promote an antisemitic movement in Canada…It is deeply troubling that taxpayer dollars were used to subsidize a document ‘guiding’ Canadians on whom to support in an election.”

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