Toronto creates Canada’s first political fellowship program for Muslim youth

A groundbreaking diversity initiative at Toronto City Hall which pairs 13 Muslim interns to volunteer as aides to city councillors commenced on January 15.

The initiative, which aims to increase participation in civic engagement among Muslim youth and build the next generation of Muslim public servants, is hosted by Urban Alliance on Race Relations (UARR), a non-profit organization which focuses on addressing racism in Canadian society in partnership with DawaNet, an online community portal which connects 400,000 Muslims in the Greater Toronto Area.

The program will cost $32,200 of which $22,200 will be funded by UARR and the rest will be paid for by City Hall’s Social Development, Finance and Administration.

The motion for establishing the Muslim Youth Fellowship was put forward by Councillor Neethan Shan who recently announced he will be tabling a motion to designate January 29 as a day of action against Islamophobia.

The Fellowship program will provide politically motivated students the opportunity to complement academic studies with hands-on experience volunteering with an elected government representative in a range of areas, including advocacy, policy and campaign organizing.

An honorarium of $1,400 per Fellow will be paid during the training and networking portion of the program but time spent in Municipal offices will be unpaid.

To qualify for the Fellowship, the applicants must be involved in Muslim community improvement or development, have an understanding of civic issues faced by the Muslim Canadian community and demonstrate sustained civic engagement.

Mohammed Hashim, a UARR board member, told the Toronto Star that with the rise of hate crimes against the Muslim community, the Fellowship program “is going to be serving people to really break down those barriers not just for people within the community but for people outside the community to be able to access the Muslim community.”