Bureaucrats worked around the clock after Twitter and media were abuzz about a Muslim Voting Guide published by a taxpayer-funded Wilfrid Laurier University Islamophobia initiative.
According to documents obtained under access to information by Blacklock’s Reporter, the deputy minister of industry questioned why the government would fund a voting guide for Canadian Muslims ahead of the 2019 federal election, calling the decision “weird.”
Deputy Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Simon Kennedy asked others in the department how they could justify funding a Muslim voting guide.
“In the event we did pay for this, I’m just wondering if in fact we have any policies at the Councils about paying for this stuff that is overtly political in the sense of paying for stuff that, for example, purports to guide people in how they should vote?” he wrote.
“It would seem weird that such a guide would be something we would subsidize no matter what one may or may not think about the content.”
The Canadian Muslim Voting Guide, created by Prof. Jasmin Zine and two graduate students at Wilfrid Laurier University, called Maxime Bernier “blatantly xenophobic and Islamophobic,” referred to the United We Roll demonstrations as a “white nationalist rally,” and suggests all Muslims should support open borders and boycotts of Israel – and should vote accordingly.
The authors received $24,923 from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), though this grant wasn’t specifically earmarked for the guide. The government claimed to have not known about the guide until B’nai Brith Canada notified them Oct. 24, after the federal election.
By Oct. 26, the Government of Canada and SSHRC logos were removed from the voting guide. The SSHRC later said that it thought the funding was for “mapping the Canadian Islamophobia Industry,” noting a voting guide was not contained in Zine’s grant application.
However, the grant program offers recipients a great degree of latitude in how they use the funds, including for advocacy.
“The Islamophobia industry is comprised of media outlets, political figures, academics, think tanks, far-right groups and ideologies, and the donors who fund their campaign,” read the grant application.
“These individuals, groups and institutions comprise a network that supports and engages in activities that demonize and marginalize Islam and Muslims in Canada.”
Public outrage over the biased voting guide led to the Prime Minister’s Office pressing the SSHRC about what happened, according to Access to Information records.
“Yikes,” one SSHRC staff member wrote in an email.
“Many dozens of tweets about this now from all sides so (we) can see why the Prime Minister’s Office is worked up,” another wrote.
The SSHRC promised to investigate the matter.