The Muslim community within Canada can be considered both old and new. The first Muslims in Canada were immigrants, but not from a traditionally “Muslim countries”, as one might expect. Immigration records show that Agnes and James Love were the first Muslims in Canada who were of Scottish descent. Their son, James Jr. was born in 1854, making him the first Muslim born in Ontario. John and Martha Simon, another Muslim couple, migrated to Canada from the United States around 1871.
The oldest mosque in Canada is Al-Rashid mosque, located in Edmonton, Alberta. The plan to build the mosque came from a group of Muslim women who approached the Mayor at the time, John Fry, for a plot of land on which to build a mosque. The oldest mosque in Ontario, and the second oldest in Canada, is in London, Ontario and was built in 1955.
The majority of those who immigrated during the 1960’s were University students who decided to remain in Canada after finishing their studies. Immigration to Canada continued to grow and began fostering stronger ethnic communities. This resulted in a stronger Canada which had since had a strong belief in multiculturalism.
The 1990s, for instance, brought Somalis, Bosnians and Kosovars to Canada, many as refugees. The past decade brought economic immigrants who are skilled professionals recruited to high paying jobs. There are well documented challenges facing immigrants in areas like accreditation and employment. Nevertheless, the story of immigration in Canada has been largely one of successful integration into the broader Canadian mosaic.
Over the years, many organizations – both local and national – have been formed to serve the needs of the Muslim communities in various localities. The Muslim Association of Canada (MAC) was established in 1997 with a specific vision: a desire to help foster a Muslim presence within Canada that adopts a balanced, moderate understanding of Islam and that is actively and beneficially engaged within society.
The founders of MAC were already active in local and national organizations; however, in the late 1990s there was a shared sense among those individual activists that something was still missing. There was a need to bridge the gap and help Canadian Muslims relate and contribute to their communities in a healthy and positive way.
From humble beginnings, MAC has grown over the past decade into a national grassroots organization with several chapters across the country and with a number of religious and social programs providing valuable services to the community. MAC acquired the first community center in 1997 in GTA.
MAC currently owns and operates community centers, mosques, youth centers as well as full-time and part-time schools. We have achieved much in the way of helping new immigrants acclimatize to their new surroundings, aiding youth in the struggle to find their identity as Canadian Muslims and reaching out to organizations of every stripe, to lend a helping hand. But there remains much more that needs to be done.
Through its individual-empowerment and community development framework, MAC is committed to its vision to see a time when:
- The prevalent understanding of Islam is one of balance, constructive engagement, and relevance to life
- The understanding of Islam and Islamic values are commonplace in Canadian society and Islam and Muslims are not perceived as alien
- Muslims are well represented in various aspects of Canadian society including social, legal, and political circles, as well as the media; and
- MAC is at the forefront in articulating vision, developing leadership, mobilizing grassroots, and offering institutional services in the community.
As an organization that strives to engage all Canadians, MAC’s understanding of Islam informs its approach to faith-based activism in the context of a pluralistic society. Hence, MAC encourages respect for all faiths and cultures.
MAC welcomes the opportunities to engage new hearts and minds and to form new partnerships and alliances to help make Canada a better place for all Canadians.