Jan. 26, 2017: the day six Muslim men were shot and killed and 19 others were injured inside a Quebec City mosque.
The incident produced shock across the country — and the world — as Canadians were confronted with the reality that their nation is not immune to hatred.
Now, as the second anniversary of that deadly event approaches, advocacy groups are calling on the government to give the day a name that they say will remind Canadians to work toward a hate-free future.
More than 100 Canadian advocacy and religious organizations signed an open letter to Pablo Rodriguez, the federal minister of Canadian Heritage and multiculturalism, calling for Jan. 29 to be named the National Day of Action Against Hate & Intolerance.
The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) sent the open letter this week.
WATCH: Vigil commemorates Quebec City mosque shooting
“As we approach the second anniversary of the attack, we pause to recognize that the racism and hatred that underpinned this attack do not exist in isolation,” the letter read.
Making the Jan. 29 anniversary official would allow all Canadians to “come together and unite, not only against Islamophobia but against all forms of hate.”
The letter was signed by NCCM director Ihsaan Gardee and endorsed by many groups including Amnesty International Canada, The United Church of Canada, the World Sikh Organization of Canada and United Jewish People’s Order.
NCCM had previously called for Jan. 29 to be designated the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Islamophobia.
But Leila Nasr, who works with the organization, explained to Global News that they decided to change the focus after public dialogue and talks with other groups.
“In the end, the clear message that we got from the community and other organizations was really one of recognizing that ultimately the hate and intolerance that produced the shooting in Quebec are the same challenges largely that are being faced by other minorities across the country,” Nasr said.
“It’s only by standing together and recognizing the similarities between those challenges that we can truly confront them once and for all.”
The letter echoes a similar sentiment, reading: “Only collectively can we preserve the inclusive nature of the Canada that we all call home.”
Nasr went on to explain that NCCM is “actively” searching for more organizations to join in supporting their campaign.
WATCH: ‘Islamophobia is real,’ Trudeau says on anniversary of Quebec shooting
The national council hopes that the day will remind people of the realities of hate, and help them reflect on what Canada is doing to eradicate it.
“We look at back and measure and reassess the eradication of all kinds of hate, bigotry, racism and intolerance — year after year,” Nasr said.
She said that, ideally, the day would include education in schools, and that it would spur meaningful media coverage and government efforts to raise awareness of hate.
Simon Ross, press secretary for Minister Rodriguez, told Global News in a statement that the government supports efforts related to “promoting a diverse and inclusive Canada.”
“We must condemn all forms of discrimination including Islamophobia,” the statement read.
It added: “Our government has received and noted the proposal by the National Council of Canadian Muslims.”
Ross did not confirm the government’s next steps when it came to the proposal, but noted that it is “engaging with communities” to develop solutions.
Hate crimes in Canada
Canada’s problem with hate stretches beyond the mosque shooting, or any one incident.
Several minority groups in the country face risk of discrimination, according to the most recent hate crimes data released by Statistics Canada.
WATCH: Hate crimes against Jewish community increase year over year
In 2016, the last year for which police-reported hate crime statistics are available, there were 1,409 police-reported criminal incidents motivated by hate. That’s an increase of three percentage points — 47 more incidents than the previous year.
StatCan explained the increase was “largely attributable” to hate crimes based on sexual orientation, and based on race or ethnicity.
About 33 per cent of all hate crime reports were based on religion.
Police-reported hate crimes against Muslims and Jews were high relative to other faiths — the latter in particular.
This chart shows police-reported hate crimes against religious groups in Canada in 2015 and 2016. The stats, which were compiled before the Quebec City mosque shooting, showed fewer police-reported hate crimes (139) against the Muslim population in 2016, after they had increased to 159 in the prior year.
Meanwhile, they grew against the Jewish population, from 178 to 221.
Those trends came as a result of fewer incidents in Quebec (-16), Alberta (-8) and Ontario (-6).
However, those trends also came amid an increase in hate crime incidents targeting South Asians, and Arabs or West Asians.
StatCan showed that 666 incidents, or 48 per cent of police-reported hate crimes, were motivated by hatred of ethnicity or race.
That increase was due to an additional 24 hate crimes that targeted South Asians and an additional 20 incidents that targeted Arabs or West Asians.
— With files from Global News reporter Jesse Ferreras
© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.