Friday May 29th, 2020
Attention: Provincial, Territorial and Regional Chief Medical Officers of Health
Subject: Preparedness Framework for Canadian Mosques and Islamic Centres (v. 1)
Dear respected colleagues:
Thank you and thanks to all the members of the regional and Provincial Emergency Operation Centres who continue to work tirelessly in helping our communities navigate this unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. As co-chair of the Canadian Muslim COVID-19 Task Force, I am writing to share with you our first release of a set of recommendations for Canadian mosques (Masajid) and Islamic centres, in anticipation of forthcoming provincial relaxations on public gatherings and houses of worship.
Appropriately, our provinces and territories are cautiously reopening in a staged manner and on different timelines. As you know, gatherings have notoriously contributed towards the spread of COVID-19 across the world, and religious gatherings are settings with unique risks and modes of infection transmission. Canadian Muslims are cognisant of this, having recently worshipped within their homes during Ramadan and having celebrated Eid-ul-Fitr on May 24th, 2020 using virtual and novel methods, in accordance with public health recommendations. During such uncertain times where many would find solace in communal prayers and attending the mosque, the potential for some semblance of normality as we slowly reopen is certainly welcome. Having said that, we recognize the challenges and risks that come with this, especially with Eid-ul-Adha on July 31st, 2020, and strongly consider the protection of health and lives of all Canadians as paramount.
While there is limited guidance provided for houses of worship by some provincial governments, it is understandably generic and not readily applicable to mosques and Islamic centres. After receiving numerous requests for specific guidance on how to reopen safely, we consulted with Canadian Muslim medical professionals, Sunni and Shia religious leaders and mosque administrators on our task force to create this initial framework. We have also been actively collaborating with the national Muslim COVID-19 task forces in the United States and the United Kingdom on this, as well as other initiatives.
These contextual recommendations are meant to complement provincial reopening strategies, and not replace them. This release is currently undergoing a community consultation period, where almost 400 mosques and centres across the country have received it and have been invited to a virtual town hall on Sunday June 7th, 2020 12PM EST, to provide their feedback and suggestions. Following this, a revised version will be released in mid to late June 2020, which will include a detailed staged framework for mosques and centres that will align with the different phases of provincial reopening strategies.
Through this community participatory approach and education programs, we hope these recommendations will be implemented uniformly across the country during this critical period, even though provinces may be at different stages of reopening. We ask for your support and welcome any opportunity to work with you on this and any other initiatives that pertain to Canadian Muslims.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from and working with you.
Dr. M. Hashim Khan MBBS FRCPC
Co-Chair, Canadian Muslim COVID-19 Task Force (CMCTF)