BIPOC USHR Statement on Senator Percy Downe’s Islamophobic and Racist Comments

On February 9th, 2024 Senator Percy Downe of PEI posted segments of an exchange he had with Senator Marc Gold, regarding security checks on international students. In this exchange, Senator Downe made multiple blatantly racist and Islamophobic comments, using dog whistles to paint international students as security threats, and then specifically target Palestinian students from Gaza, a population currently experiencing a genocide. 

Senator Downe’s use of inflammatory language and racist dog whistles reveal him to be racist, xenophobic, and Islamophobic. He CANNOT represent us with any integrity and we have no trust in him. 

Therefore, we, BIPOC USHR, demand that 

  • Senator Downe immediately resign from his position; and
  • Senator Downe issue a detailed public apology, including an explanation as to why his line of questioning was racist, xenophobic, and Islamophobic, and what steps he will be taking to fill the large gaps in his knowledge regarding racism, xenophobia, and Islamophobia 

Senator Downe states: “The Canadian Border Services Agency has reported that criminal gangs are using student visas to import hundreds of gang members, people who never intended to go to school in our country. In P.E.I. there have been cases where international students have sexually assaulted students.” (emphasis ours)

This, unfortunately, is not the first time he’s expressed deep xenophobia toward international students. 

First, the CBSA investigation was from 2020, a year in which there were 527,365 international students in Canada. Of those 300 were investigated, and only 10 were found to be involved in criminal activity as of last year. If you calculate that percentage, it is clear that people obtaining fraudulent student visas to commit crimes in Canada is not a serious security threat, unless you’re scared of Black and brown people and want to exploit this fear to limit immigration. 

Second, anyone who works in sexual violence response and prevention knows that sexual violence is unfortunately a common phenomenon all across Canada and in all communities. However, to suggest that Black and brown international students are more likely to instigate it, relies on an incredibly old racist trope that paints Black, brown, Indigenous, and Muslim men as hypersexual and exceptionally lascivious, an accusation used by European colonizers for centuries to justify their brutality toward the colonized. Suggesting that international students are more likely to commit sexual violence is simply vile white supremacist garbage. 

Downe then continues to state that “Islanders are concerned about terrorists coming to our country, given the terrible, savage crimes committed by Hamas against the citizens of Israel. Given the lack of security checks on international students, what checks will be conducted on individuals coming from Gaza?”

First, many have written about the history of the region highlighting that the current war on Gaza did not begin on October 7th with Hamas’ actions, but began 75-100 years ago with the colonization of Palestinians land that resulted in the expulsion and extermination of the Palestinian people from the land they had called home for generations upon generations upon generations, also referred to as the Nakba. Go to our website to learn more about this context, the history of Palestine, and the beautiful Palestinian people.  

Second, the term “savage” is a racist term that white colonizers have used against Black, brown, and Indigenous peoples for centuries. To use it against Palestinians, an Indigenous population, can only be labeled as racist. 

Third, it is important to remember, that “terrorism” itself is a label so often misapplied to Muslim, Black, and Indigenous peoples, by white supremacist power structures, that it has lost its meaning when used against racialized peoples. After all, Nelson Mandela was labelled a terrorist by the US until 2008 and Hamas is not viewed as a terrorist group by most of the Global South

White supremacy always views Black, Indigenous, and Muslim peoples as security threats. Black people are viewed as a threat to white safety, Indigenous people to white sense of entitlement to stolen land, and Muslims to white people’s sense of national security. The racist fear mongering from Senator Downe is not only vile, it is an old white supremacist tradition dating back hundreds of years. How are we ever expected to become an anti-racist society if people still believe these lies? However, racist, xenophobic, and Islamophobic fear mongering has grave consequences for the safety of racialized peoples, which white people rarely seem to be concerned with. 

Today, as the people of Gaza experience a genocide, to hear Senator Downe smear them with such vile and hostile Islamophobic rhetoric issimply cruel. For anyone who has been watching this genocide happening, live, on our phones via social media, the anguish, suffering, and terror people in Gaza are experiencing is earth shattering. The children taking their last breaths, the sobbing and wailing parents holding the bodies of their dead babies, the newly orphaned children crying out for their dead mothers, the elderly grandparents barely shaking with trauma, the young men digging through the rubble with their bare hands to save whoever they can, and on an on. The people of Palestine have experienced 100 years of war waged against them, 75 years of European colonization and its accompanying ethnic cleansing and genocide, 56 years of brutality and countless massacres committed by the Israeli occupation forces, violent occupation, decades of apartheid, and now four months of a gruesome genocide. Gaza is a concentration camp, and yet white supremacy and Islamophobia deny them their right to be recognized as victims, and can only see them as “terrorists” and a “threat” to white sense of safety, because white sense of safety is the only safety that counts in a white supremacist world. Only white people have the right to FEEL safe while Black, brown, Indigenous, and Muslim people have no right to actually BE safe. 

Due to the gross dehumanization of Gazans, and international students, Senator Downe must step down. 

BIPOC USHR

Additional signatories

  1. Nora MacPhee, PEI resident
  2. Kal Ross
  3. Lucky Fusca, Executive director, PEI Transgender Network
  4. Jill MacIntyre, Climate justice organizer
  5. Charlottetown Mutual Aid
  6. Sarah Tamula, PEI resident
  7. Tegan Hermanson
  8. Rebecca Ford, Owner, Now and Then Event Services
  9. Mikayla Gallant
  10. Alison DesRoches
  11. Nicole St. Denis
  12. Avery Alexandria
  13. Al Kelly
  14. Kendi Tarichia, Artist, Creative PEI
  15. Rachel Adams
  16. Hannah Elizabeth Bell, Citizen, Self employed business consultant
  17. AinZ Kendrick
  18. Wade Beaton
  19. Shannon
  20. Zain Esseghaier
  21. Jaclyn Borden
  22. Jo-Ann Esseghaier
  23. Menna Elmoslemany
  24. Cassandra Leblanc
  25. Candace Hagen
  26. Tristan Gray
  27. Eberechi Okwuwolu
  28. Kaelyn Mercer
  29. Walaa Nasry, PhD student, AVC
  30. Angela Farmer
  31. Melanie Hutchins, Master’s student, UPEI
  32. Fairouz Gaballa, Coordinator – Scholarships, Awards, and Financial Aid Office, UPEI
  33. Nelson Snow
  34. Dempsey Perry, Constituent
  35. John Underhay, Retired
  36. Andrew Trivett, Associate professor, UPEI
  37. Emma Campanaro
  38. Kelly Robinson
  39. Kaitlyn Isaacs
  40. Dylan McIntyre
  41. Anna Keenan
  42. Roula, Student at University of Prince Edward Island
  43. Natasha McKenna
  44. PEI 4 Palestine
  45. Alanna West
  46. Danielle White
  47. Noah MacDougall
  48. Maggie Finkle-Aucoin
  49. Lyndsey Paynter
  50. Sarah Dennis
  51. Erin MacDonald
  52. Jodi MacPhee
  53. Ferne MacEwen
  54. John Frederick Cox, Painter, John Cox studio & www.TallPines.ca
  55. Victoria Keefe
  56. Raneem Subh
  57. Michelle Neill, Leader, Island New Democrats
  58. Thao Nguyen
  59. Judith Logan Junop, Very concerned citizen
  60. Kerry Salmon
  61. Parker Snow
  62. Annie MacEachern
  63. Katie Shaw
  64. Harriet Huestis
  65. Kari Kruse
  66. Marli Trecartin
  67. Cory Pater
  68. Roseanne Gauthier
  69. Marian White, Leo Broderick, Phil Callaghan, members, Island Peace Committee
  70. Abdul Razack
  71. Jo Cain
  72. Sophia Saad
  73. Sahib Singh, Student, UPEI
  74. Micheline Steele
  75. Daniele Kendall
  76. Sarah Bulman
  77. Jessica Chaisson
  78. Jo Morrison
  79. Sacha Luttermann
  80. Via Reyes
  81. Khadija Ghanam
  82. lauralynn shaefer
  83. Conor Mullin
  84. Dan Bevan-Baker
  85. Carrie Snow
  86. Selina Porter
  87. Hugh Walker
  88. Mackenzie Campbell
  89. Cordell Wells
  90. Jennifer O’Brien, Islanders Protecting Animals
  91. John Burhoe, Private citizen
  92. Charlene Wight
  93. Megan MacKenzie
  94. Michael Sciascia
  95. Erin Ferguson
  96. Tatiana Ibáñez
  97. Malak Nassar
  98. Helaina Lalande
  99. Thierry Allemann, IT Contractor, Greater Restoration
  100. Annick Mondat Allemann, Executive director, Actions Femmes IPÉ
  101. Hadil Haddad
  102. Tara-Lynn Rioux
  103. Fiona Cashell
  104. Tom Gammons
  105. Wrenn Mehlitz, Diversity and Social Justice Student, University of Prince Edward Island
  106. Alanna MacNevin
  107. Wasan Yacoub
  108. Erin Gillespie
  109. Daniel Ohaegbu, Executive director, Atlantic Student Development Alliance
  110. Cameron Cassidy, Executive director, Pride PEI
  111. Ayaz Imtiaz
  112. Abby Miller
  113. Clover Gallant
  114. Quinn Gallant
  115. Benjamin Gallant
  116. Amy Mckie
  117. Ashley Clark
  118. Nicole Wadden Garland, Manager, Accessibility Services, University of Prince Edward Island
  119. Julia Brown
  120. Nolan Kressin, Student
  121. Patricia MacAulay
  122. Edith Perry, Resident
  123. Stephen Murray
  124. Alex Taylor
  125. J Lorch
  126. Amy Carver
  127. University of Prince Edward Island Student Union
  128. Leena Daboo
  129. Divya Daboo, UPEI International student
  130. Jaclyn Borden, Secretary, Atlantic Association of College and University Student Affairs (AACUSS)
  131. Lawrence Millar, PEI resident (Cardigan Riding), Council of Canadians Charlottetown Chapter
  132. Teena Marie Fancey, Citizen
  133. Zoey Mossman
  134. Omair Imtiaz, Community member Belfast, PE
  135. Amanda Rae Gallant, Activity Coordinator, St. Paul’s Anglican Church
  136. Lorne Duplessis
  137. Penelope Gallant
  138. Calder Gathankathala
  139. Virginia Reddin
  140. Ray Ghiasudeen
  141. Antoinette van Kouteren
  142. Mary Cowper-Smith
  143. Hannah, Student, UPEI
  144. Ellen Mullally, PEI Resident
  145. Berry Genge
  146. Nour olett
  147. Rhea Gallant
  148. Tabea Gyr, Student, UPEI
  149. Nadin Subeh
  150. Rosa F.W. Thompson, Senator Downe must resign for his genocidal beliefs and bigoted statements.
  151. John MacKenzie, Prince Edward Island resident, private citizen
  152. Chelsey VanKeymeulen
  153. Lauren King
  154. UPEI Engineers Without Borders Chapter
  155. Heather MacEwen, Resident
  156. Liliana Dupuis, Senator Downe immediately resign from his position; and Senator Downe issue a detailed public apology, including an explanation as to why his line of questioning was racist, xenophobic, and Islamophobic, and what steps he will be taking to fill the large gaps in his knowledge regarding racism, xenophobia, and Islamophobia
  157. Josh Dixon
  158. Andrea MacPherson
  159. Adrienne Montgomery
  160. Ali Jones, MSW
  161. Riz Ali
  162. Dane Sheets
  163. Tamina Doyle
  164. Angela Douglas
  165. Angela Barrett
  166. Kegan Bradley, PEI Resident
  167. Ellen Macphail
  168. Nia Stokes
  169. Charlotte Sullivan
  170. Maria Tarenta
  171. Lindsay Dunphy
  172. Jimmy Hulton
  173. Ethan Drake, EDI Commissioner, UPEI Engineering Society
  174. Sarah Outram
  175. Adiel Ngabo Rutabana
  176. Jason Buote
  177. Hammad Ahmed
  178. Alicia Bowering, Student, UPEI
  179. Amin Abomonasar
  180. Michelle Jay
  181. Amira Alkumaim
  182. Rosalind Waters
  183. Mariam Esseghaier
  184. Tahir Rafiq
  185. Amelia Lockert, Charlottetown Resident
  186. Zahrah Purahoo, Island Abbey Nutritionals
  187. Nida Ashraf, Mentor, Holland College
  188. Rosina, Demand his resignation. People with such mentality should not hold prestige positions
  189. Trevor Clements, Poet, Drummer, Educator, Counseling Student, & Private Citizen, Trevor Lowell Clements & the Barn Cat Poetry Beat
  190. Zakiya, Esthetician
  191. Mahmoud Elmoslemany, Student, University of Prince Edward Island, President of UPEI Muslim Student Association
  192. Jillian Kilfoil
  193. Ibra Younis, Student
  194. Josie robinson
  195. Humphrey K Muthoni
  196. Alexa
  197. Cynthia Dennis
  198. Bayan
  199. Omar Shokr
  200. alexis bulman, artist
  201. Emmanuelle Billaux
  202. Ryan MacRae
  203. Heather Spetifore, Registered Social Worker
  204. Audrey-Anne Landry
  205. Joce Reyome
  206. Jocelyn Fraser
  207. Laura Oakie
  208. Leah Gauthier
  209. Grace Gibson
  210. Brandon Howard Roy
  211. Hugh
  212. Brett Roche, Teacher, PSB
  213. Arjun Kundu, Student, University of Prince Edward Island
  214. Jessie Gould
  215. Christien Deveau
  216. Ryan Neumeyer
  217. Arian Abolhassani
  218. Irene Doyle, Islander living in Charlottetown
  219. Joe Byrne
  220. Josh Carter, Musician
  221. Eliza MacLauchlan
  222. Yoan Rousseau, Bilingual employer outreach officer, PEI Office of Immigration
  223. Leia McMillan, UPEI Diversity and Social Justice Student,
  224. Cooper Institute
  225. Ashton Casey
  226. Katie Pound, Student, UPEI
  227. Josie Baker, Executive Director, PEERS Alliance
  228. Hannah Bulman, Tattooer/Artist, Pokey Rae Hand Poked Tattoos
  229. Farida Dabbit
  230. Laura Reyes Castillo, Support Services Manager, Carleton Kirk Lodge
  231. Sophia Nicholson
  232. Rachel Bartlett
  233. Lauren Smith
  234. Dana Chatterjee
  235. Christine Clements
  236. Danielle Burke
  237. Mohamed Eldeeb
  238. Milla MacVicar
  239. Cooper Institute
  240. Ann Wheatley
  241. Ryl
  242. Muslim Society of PEI
  243. Rowan Scott
  244. Yehan
  245. William Craine
  246. Oliver Chaffey, Student, UPEI
  247. York Elmer Tumen, Political Intern, House Of Lords
  248. Hannah Faye MacLean
  249. Rahaf
  250. Sarah Freeburn
  251. Lucas MacCormack
  252. Anje khalil
  253. UPEI Engineering Society
  254. Youssef ahmed, Student, UPEI
  255. T Khan

If you, or your organization, would like to sign on, please follow this link to our Google Form and leave your information. It will be added to this letter.

https://forms.gle/CN3NqjPr9tVr6n3Y8

As Senator Downe has removed the tweet in question, please see this screenshot of it.