OCASI sparks controversy
With a new campaign from Public, the government organization puts a face to Islamophobia.
A new campaign from the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) is certainly sparking conversations online.
The latest push from Public features people telling those of the Islamic faith to go back to where they came from, which often happens to be another part of Toronto. But it’s one shot in particular of a man telling a woman in a hijab to go home (“Where, North York?”) that’s sparked the most controversy.
“There are a lot of folks who are saying ‘this is really racist against white men. As a white man, I’m offended,’” says Debbie Douglas, executive director of OCASI. “We thought this was tame – but it’s been very provocative.”
But that’s exactly what she was hoping for. The campaign, which runs for three weeks on city-owned media platforms, is targeted at those who are “ambivalent” towards immigration. They might have positive feelings towards diversity and inclusion, but haven’t given it much thought, she says. This push is specifically designed to make them think about their place in the conversation.
“We’re not preaching to the converted, and we certainly know an ad campaign that runs for three weeks is not going to change the mind of folks who are xenophobic or don’t want to engage in conversations about inclusion and diversity,” she says. “We want people who, generally, have good instincts, but might be questioning the purpose of diversity to ask ‘What’s my role?’”
The campaign comes about nine months after the last federal election, which stirred up anti-Islamic sentiment as candidates from the Conservative party promised a dedicated tip line for citizens to report “barbaric cultural practices” and the former government refused to allow women in niqabs to take the citizenship oath.
In the U.S., the combination of terrorist attacks and presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump have contributed to Islamophobia.