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A day after a historic church in Toronto burnt down, Conservative MP Jamil Jivani lambasted the NDP and Liberals for being unable to condemn church burnings unanimously in February.

During the standing committee on Justice and Human Rights on Islamophobia Monday, Jivani voiced his confusion about what he viewed as a lack of coverage and outrage from the political establishment over recent attacks on religious communities, particularly Christians in Canada.

“Since 2021, we’ve had over 100 Christian churches burned, vandalized or desecrated in Canada,” Jivani said. “When I see that, I see the lack of media coverage of those attacks on religious freedom, when I see that we cannot even in the House of Commons get every party to agree on condemning those attacks on religious freedom. I think to myself, ‘Yo, dawg, are we like in The Truman Show or something right now?’”

The Truman Show, a 1998 movie starring Jim Carrey, is about a man who lives his entire life unaware that he is actually in a TV show.

“It just seems so frustrating and puzzling how you get to this point,” he said. “Often, I will hear from constituents who are concerned about it, and they’ll express a sense of hopelessness like ‘Well how do you get people to care about this?’ Then I see other communities go through their own ordeals when it comes to attacks on their religious freedom.”

True North’s church arson map has been exclusively tracking incidents across Canada since the announcement of the apparent discovery of graves near residential schools in 2021.

He mentioned schools and synagogues being shot up over the last few weeks, and a potentially hate-motivated attack at a Muslim family’s home in London, Ont.

Jivani hopes that there is a silver lining in all of this. He thinks there might be some common ground between faith groups that are increasingly divided in Canada. He wondered if these attacks on “religious freedom” could be an opportunity to build bridges between those religious communities.

“Perhaps by working together, we actually wind up being able to protect believers of all different types,” he said. 

Jivani asked one of the witnesses at the hearing, Husein Panju, chair of the Muslim Lawyers Association and self-proclaimed Islamophobia expert if he saw any possibility of faith communities working together to “support each other better.”

“There is a sincere division right now in our society, amongst various cultures and faiths and we are optimistic that we can get to a point eventually, where the unity is developed,” Panju said.

He said there were many ways to achieve cohesion between faith groups, and the government ought to take a top-down approach to help coordinate that unity.

“There needs to be a tangible action and engagement, not just money that’s invested in different programs, but a meaningful appetite to hear the perspective of those who are impacted the most,” he said.

Jivani noted that he thought the parental rights movement which started the country-wide “One Million March for Children,” was the closest Canada has been in his lifetime to that unity in purpose between religious communities.

“The particular issue of concern for many believers was the matter of parental rights and the fact that at different levels of government, we had politicians who were actively campaigning against the rights of mothers and fathers to play a leading role in their children’s education,” he said.

He asked Panju if he agreed that the parental rights issue was potentially grounds to bring the Muslim community, of which Panju is a part, and other religious communities together.

But Panju affirmed that Muslims are not a monolith.

“There are different perspectives even within our community and so questions like these are important. And to understand how communities feel about these, there needs to be meaningful discussions within our community to get these answers.”
Jivani has a petition currently up on his website “calling on all levels of government to respect the rights of parents to raise their own children and play a leading role in their child’s education.”