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We, the undersigned, are calling on you to address urgently the rise of incivility, public aggression and overt hatred that are undermining the peace and security of Canadian life. This issue is so important that it transcends partisanship.

Whether they are connected to geopolitical events happening thousands of kilometres away or derived from homegrown causes, one cannot deny that tensions are on the rise in our streets and on our campuses.

We believe this phenomenon is part of a broader, worrisome trend. Canadians appear increasingly unwilling, unable or ill-equipped to talk to or live peaceably alongside those with divergent views of complex and divisive issues including, as in the current instance, those with significant geopolitical overtones and implications.

What is going on? In the case of the current conflict between Israel and Hamas, perhaps its particular contours and content are so significant in scale and impact that some Canadians feel justified acting out in intimidating and violent ways. Perhaps strident ideologies have erased the nuance required to understand complex events fully. Perhaps a growing number of us no longer consider it part of a common Canadian value system to put aside our differences and work alongside those with whom we disagree in the broader interests of Canada. Or perhaps such negative tendencies were always present in Canada and it has taken the increasing ubiquity of social media to reveal them fully.

Editorial: The defence of civility rests on all of us

Open letter calls for greater civility in public discourse

Whatever the reasons for the increasingly belligerent nature of many of the current interactions between Canadians with different perspectives on hostilities in the Middle East or other divisive issues, we believe that no Canadian should ever be fearful because of their identities or their beliefs. Many are.

Canadians with different perspectives and lived experiences need to be working together instead of retreating to the familiarity of our echo chambers to lob hurtful tropes at one another. Those who want to speak up for peace and justice should feel safe and empowered to do so rather than chilled into silence. Those who just want to go about their lives without taking a public position on a particular conflict should also feel free to do so. As the saying goes, “Don’t talk unless you can improve the silence.” Sadly, much of the invective Canadians are hurling at each other today fails to heed that wise advice.

We acknowledge that there are and always have been deep and painful divisions between many people living in Canada. The distribution of power and privilege among those on different sides of these divides has often been inequitable, and those inequities themselves are fault lines that undermine our collective strength. Some tensions are homegrown and result from stains on our shared history, including the violent dispossession of Indigenous peoples from their land and the dehumanizing racism targeting Black communities since before Confederation. Others have their origins in disputes first arising outside of Canada.

Whatever the origins of these divides between us, however, more must be done to help everyone in Canada advance together toward a more respectful and equitable future. Important and substantial work has already been done and continues to be done by many stakeholders to create a more respectful country. These efforts need support and sustained attention.

All of this is why we are writing to you. We are calling upon you, the senior political leadership of Canada, to put political affiliation and partisanship aside and demonstrate your shared commitment to fostering a safer, more cohesive and respectful Canada, where hatred has no home.

We urge you to

  • Partner with academic and civil society to research the causes, scale and impact of issue-driven tensions and conflict in Canada. If we don’t know the causes of what we are seeing manifested on our streets and campuses, we risk treating only the symptoms. Qualitative and quantitative research must be undertaken that will identify those root causes and enable Canada to respond to them from a strong empirical foundation.
  • Jointly support national and local initiatives to confront hate and reaffirm the commitment of Canadians to mutual respect and peaceful engagement. Derive and apply lessons from these efforts to increase intercommunity awareness and empathy.
  • Work to instill in all generations of Canadians respect for and the ability to engage in constructive intercommunity dialogue. Help Canadians understand that words and actions that fall short of criminal behaviour can still contribute to fear and insecurity that weaken us as a society.
  • Fund the development and delivery of curricula in primary, secondary and postsecondary institutions across the country designed to foster greater intercultural competency, increase community-level empathy and encourage a commitment to bridging differences at home and abroad.
  • Protect and defend the right of every Canadian to the lawful and free expression of strong viewpoints and unpopular positions about even the most challenging and divisive of topics.
  • Enforce any laws that prohibit and/or penalize harassment, threats or intimidation against people because of their identity, beliefs or opinions. Review their sufficiency.
  • Strengthen awareness and clarify the public’s understanding of what constitutes hate speech and what does not. Decry its use. Recommit to the consistent application of laws against it. Do all you can to address hate at its origins.
  • Speak out wherever and whenever you can about the values that bind us together as a country. Remember and remind all of us of the real danger that the fabric of Canadian life and society could be torn apart, perhaps irreparably, if we continue without intervention down the current path of public hate, violence and vitriol.

This is a clarion call for our collective future. The investments that we make, the skills we develop and the values we embody today will help us live up to the promise of Canada. We hope you will respond with the demonstration of leadership and determination that we believe these issues warrant.


Babak Abbaszadeh

Financial sector global NGO executive

Former senior government adviser

Ed Burtynsky

Photographic artist

Barry R. Campbell

Former MP

Ted Cape

Former CFO, media

Mark Carney

Former governor of the Bank of Canada

Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism at Ontario Tech University

Jean Charest

Former premier of Quebec

Valerie Connor

PEN Canada Advisory Council

Peter Donolo


Honorable Art Eggleton

Vice-president, Liberal International

Former mayor of Toronto

John English

Former MP

Bob Ezrin

Music and entertainment producer, educator and activist

Bernie M. Farber

Founding chair emeritus, Canadian Anti-Hate Network

Former chief executive officer, Canadian Jewish Congress and Mosaic Institute

John Fraser

Journalist and author

Executive chair, National NewsMedia Council

Rabbi Baruch Frydman-Kohl


Rabbi emeritus, Beth Tzedec Congregation, Toronto

Ghanaian Canadian Association of Ontario

The Rev. Dr. Karen Hamilton

Former general secretary, Canadian Council of Churches

Former co-chair, Parliament of the World’s Religions

Mary Janigan


Historian and former journalist

Theresa Johnson

PEN Canada

Zul Kassamali

President, National Alliance for the Advancement of Pluralistic Societies

Past co-chair, Parliament of the World’s Religions

Raja Khouri


Founder, Khouri Conversations

Founding president, Canadian Arab Institute

Tom Kierans


Public policy analyst

Former investment banker

Chris Kilford

Canadian International Council

Mark Kingwell


Professor of philosophy, University of Toronto

Vahan Kololian, CM, and Susie Kololian

Co-founders, Mosaic Institute

Francis LeBlanc

Former MP

Bruce Leboff

Past chair, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto

Board member, Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal

Ben McNally

Ben McNally Books

Michael Meighen


Former senator

Past chair, Council for Canadian Unity

Toby Mendel

International human rights lawyer

Deepa Mehta

Screenwriter and film director

Bill Morneau

Former federal finance minister

Ben Murane

Executive director, New Israel Fund of Canada

Samash Nathu

Director, Journalists for Human Rights

Imam Dr. Abdul Hai Patel

Interfaith leader

Former Ontario human rights commissioner

Brian Phillips

Entrepreneur and environmental activist

Anna Porter


Writer and publisher

Ariella Rohringer

Chair, Jewish Federations of Canada-United Israel Appeal

Adam Ross

Partner, Templeton Research Ltd.

Anne M. Sado


President emeritus, George Brown College

Andrea Salguero

Director of public affairs, Baha’i Community of Canada

Philip Slayton

Former president, PEN Canada

Greg Sorbara

Former Ontario minister of finance

Rabbi Yael Splansky

Senior rabbi, Holy Blossom Temple

Susan Stromberg Stein

Sculptor, author and photographer

Constance L. Sugiyama


Independent director and strategy adviser

Jean Teillet

Author, artist and retired Indigenous rights lawyer

John Tory

Former mayor of Toronto

Karen Walton


Grace Westcott


Chair, Toronto Legacy Project

Past director, Canadian Centre for Diversity

Dr. Jeffrey J. Wilkinson

Educator, facilitator and author

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