Mohammed Hashim: The Right Man at CRRF

Oct. 16, 2020

By BERNIE FARBER

(CRRF) was created in 1997 as a Crown corporation, born of a dark chapter in Canadian history: The imprisonment of Japanese-Canadians during the Second World War.

These were Canadian citizens of Japanese ancestry. There needn’t have been any suspicion of treason or support for Japan, even though it was part of the Axis powers. That their ancestors were from Japan, some, going back many generations, was enough to uproot entire families, confiscate homes, disrupt professions, and imprison all, from young infants to the elderly. It was a gross abuse of political power, racist, and in the eyes of history, despicable.

Jews, of all people, well understood what this form of discrimination was about. Among those Jewish leaders in Canada who fought vigorously for Japanese-Canadian redress was Milton Harris, president of Canadian Jewish Congress from 1983 to 1986.

But amends would take decades. Under the guidance of the newly-established National Association of Japanese Canadians and its leaders – Art Miki, Roger Obata, Audrey Kobayashi, Maryka Omatsu, along with others, including Harris – redress and compensation, as well as a full apology, were realized in Parliament on Sept. 22, 1988.

On that date, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney rose in the House of Commons to apologize for Canadian human rights abuses against Japanese-Canadians. Mulroney announced individual redress payments, as well as a living legacy: A multi-million dollar community fund that would educate and engage in social and cultural programming emphasizing the vital need for positive race relations in Canada.

And so was born the Canadian Race Relations Foundation.

CRRF has been a force for good in Canada since its establishment. Its mandate to promote and facilitate race relations training, support development of effective policies to combat racism, and has been a shining example of Canada’s commitment to multiculturalism as a political ethos.

Each of its past executive directors put their own stamp on the organization. Moy Tam was followed by Dr. Karen Mock, a friend and colleague who used the same advocacy spirit at the CRRF that she brought heading B’nai Brith Canada’s League for Human Rights. Then came Ayman Yassini, Anita Bromberg (also formerly from B’nai Brith Canada), and Dr. Lillian Ma. We should also note that Rubin Freidman, a fixture in Canadian Jewish communal organizations, worked effectively for CRRF in its communications division, as did Len Rudner, who had come from the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.

Mohammed Hashim
Mohammed Hashim

On Oct. 6, 2020, Mohammed Hashim was named the new executive director. Anyone who knows Hashim and his work will agree that he is unquestionably the right man for the right job at precisely the right time.

He arose from student activism during his days at the University of Toronto to become a labour organizer and human right rights advocate. Most recently, he spent considerable energy as a senior organizer with the Toronto and York Region Labour Council.

His organizing skills were equalled by his ability to relate to people. Their faith, sexual orientation or skin colour never mattered. He has always been present in the fight for fairness and empowerment. A devout Muslim, he has Jewish friends from across the religious spectrum. He is young, dynamic, wise, and warm.

Mohammed Hashim (centre) with Jeffrey Brown, president of Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto Congregation (left) and Bernie Farber, publisher of the CJR and chair of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network.

This is a tough time to be the executive director of the CRRF. With racism reaching unprecedented levels and white nationalism expressing itself in violent words and actions, those of us doing human rights advocacy welcome his appointment with strong and open arms.


Bernie Farber
Bernie Farber

Bernie Farber is publisher of the Canadian Jewish Record and Chair of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network.

EDITORIAL: We must do better than this

COVID-19 is sucking all the air out of the room. Tragically it also seems to have poisoned our intelligence and turned otherwise smart and decent people into unthinking, unfeeling brutes.

Last week despite multiple warnings, cautions and even demands to engage in social distancing and certainly not to gather in groups of more than five, Trinity-Bellwoods Park in downtown Toronto was filled with summer sun-worshippers as though it were just another day in late May. Gone were the fears of spreading or acquiring this dreaded disease. One would have hoped if people didn’t care about themselves surely they have elderly parents, cousins, aunts and uncles; have we become so callous that causing the potential deaths of those we love has become meaningless?

However, sadly it gets worse. Covid-19 has torn open the ugliness of care in many of our long-term care facilities most especially in Ontario and Quebec. In these provinces by provincial request, 1,650 Canadian military troops were sent to LTC facilities that were worst hit. The report from the military as to what it found boggles the mind:

• “a culture of fear to use supplies because they cost money, expired medication, in some cases military personnel noted aggressive behaviour believed by observers to be abusive”

• “Poor nutritional status due to underfeeding”

• “Cockroaches and flies” were observed as well as residents “left in beds soiled in diapers”

• Inadequate oxygen and inaccessible wound care supplies.

These were just a few observations. There were more including poor staff training, which according to the report led to a “code blue due to choking during feeding while supine — staff unable to dislodge food or revive resident,” read the report.

How does this happen in the 21st century? Our elderly parents and relatives who gave to us so selflessly surely deserve better. How is it possible that Ontario has 175 LTC inspectors for 626 residences yet it took the intervention of the military to discover this unconscionable treatment?

This pandemic has brought out the best and worst of ourselves. Sadly, the worst can lead to fear, disease and even death. Yes, I understand that we have all been locked down for weeks and some  people are more fortunate than others. However, there simply cannot be any excuse for endangering the lives of others and certainly the treatment of our elderly needs to be addressed immediately. We have to do better than this.

Editorial: Hatred is Also a Virus

By BERNIE FARBER

COVID-19 has transported us to a different world. Social niceties, from handshakes to hugs, are now things of the past. New words and concepts like “physical distancing” are fast becoming learned behaviours. Days spent at home can sandpaper your nerves raw and lead to moments, minutes and hours of anxiety and depression.

Yet, we are all going through this strange new world together. We can take strength in numbers. We know that if we follow the rules, we can be safe and keep our family from harm. Nothing is certain but we understand enough that staying home, avoiding crowds, and washing your hands can help not only flatten the curve (another new phrase of the virus language) but keep you away from the virus itself.

It is during crises that we see the best and worst of humanity. Individuals and groups have sprung out of nowhere to shop for their elderly neighbours. Others have started online funding to help secure personal protective equipment. Some have simply made it a point to be in touch with those who are isolated, lonely and afraid. These are our “upstanders.”

On the dark side, we can always count on the ignorant and stupid, including conspiracy theorists who believe that COVID has been drummed up to deprive the U.S. president of another term.

Racists have also sadly emerged. Some have physically attacked neighbours of South Asian descent, as though they were to blame for this crisis.

And of course, let’s not forget the antisemites who very early on postulated the nonsense, according to Alex Friedfeld of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism that Jews created the virus to trigger the collapse of the stock markets and then take advantage by lining their own pockets.

For Jews, any change in world dynamics produces Jew-hatred. It comes with the territory. And throughout history, antisemitism always found a way to endure. While we battle this pandemic, let’s not lose sight of the haters out there. For them, little has changed, other than they can carry out their evil in the shadow of COVID.