Canada ‘A racist city that pretends it isn’t’: London, Ont. attack didn’t happen in vacuum, residents say
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Five members of a Muslim familywent out for a walk on Sunday night. Before the day was done, four of them had lost their lives in what police described as a targeted hate crime.
The only survivor -- a nine-year-old boy -- was seriously injured.
As Canadians across the country express their shock, horror and grief, the news was underpinned by a dark reality:and hate crimes are on the rise, according to both the statistics and the lived experiences of those in the community.
'Join me in grief and anger': Calgary mayor calls for action after deadly attack on Muslim family in London
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi is challenging people to consider how they actively fight racism and religious bigotry in their own communities following the deadly attack on a Muslim family in London, Ont. The family of five was out for a walk Sunday evening in their London community when a driver intentionally ran them down, killing four family members and leaving the youngest, a nine-year-old boy, in hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries, according to London police. “A grandmother. A mum. A dad. A teenager. All gone. A little boy seriously injured. Because of their faith. An act of terrorism. In our country. Unthinkable. Shocking.
"We think about this all the time," said Ali Chahbar, a lawyer living in London.
"Every time I walk into a mosque on Friday, I'd be lying to you if I didn't think about New Zealand, the mosque shooting there. I would be lying to you if I didn't think about the Quebec City shooting, and the fact that there's a possibility that you may walk in, but be carried out."
The latest Statistics Canada data from 2019 shows a nine per cent increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes compared to the previous year. The Toronto police also tweeted on Tuesday that they've seen a 50 per cent increase in hate crimes in the last year alone.
'Something has gone terribly wrong in this country': Members of Ottawa's Muslim community react to London attack
Members of Ottawa’s Muslim community feel wounded, angry and in some cases fearful in the wake of the hate-inspired killings of four Muslim family members and the serious injury of another, a nine-year-old boy, in London, Ont., on Sunday. Amira Elghawaby, a human-rights advocate and founding board member of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, says hate or “message” crimes like the one in London are clear in their purpose. “It’s not going to be Amira Elghawaby, a human-rights advocate and founding board member of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, says hate or “message” crimes like the one in London are clear in their purpose.
Hadil Abdallah lives minutes away from where the attack took place. She said the violent act made her afraid to leave the house.
"The next day, I thought, 'you know what, I'm not going out with my son,' because I was afraid," Abdallah said.
But, she said, she quickly reassured herself that London "is always a safe place."
"People love each other. People help each other. So, no, I will be out and I will be safe. And this will never happen again, I'm sure," Abdallah said.
But Abdallah wasn't the only Muslim resident who initially felt nervous about leaving her home.
Reyhana Patel works with the non-government organization Islamic Relief Canada. She said she heard similar comments from many others living in London.
"We have a huge supporter base in London, Ont., and I have some friends there, and they're just like, 'we don't feel safe to walk, to leave our house,'" said Patel.
Kingston’s Muslim community says that Islamophobia is deeply rooted in Canada
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses the deaths of four people in London on Sunday in the House of Commons.
She added that some of her friends told their kids "not to leave the house" on Monday.
There were 2,073 hate crimes reported to police in 2017, according to Statistics Canada. Nearly 350 of those crimes were committed against Muslims, the data shows. The number of anti-Muslim hate crimes dropped to 166 incidents in 2018 before rising to 181 in 2019.
London residents have felt the rising tide of hatred in their neighbourhoods in recent years, Patel said.
In 2017, Islamophobic protesters took to the city's streets in the name of combatting what they described as-- just months after a gunman opened fire on a Quebec City mosque, killing six people.
"We've seen a lot of these far-right protests throughout London, Ont., over the last few years -- it's not something new," said Patel. "We see a lot of people that come out to these protests. So it's there."
In another instance, posters were taped around Western Universitythat read "it's okay to be white," Patel said, a slogan that originally emerged on an online message board with the intent of seeming harmless but provoking a strong reaction.
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Quebec's Bill 21 is touted by the province and supporters as a bid to maintain secularism of the state. Opponents argue it unfairly impacts Muslims and other religious minorities.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other federal leaders urged Canadians to reject racism and hatred towards Muslims in speeches on Tuesday, but he is also being pressed about his stance on Bill 21.
The saying was later adopted by neo-Nazi and far-right groups and has a history with those groups going back as far as 2001.
On Tuesday, a former PC Party candidate also spoke up about the racism he noticed when he knocked on doors in London West in 2014.
"These people who'd never met me saw nothing special in me. They were happy only that my name was English and my skin was white," said Jeff Bennett in a Facebook post.
"The PC Party candidate in the election prior to me had been my friend Ali Chahbar. He had lost narrowly in a by-election only a year earlier ... The word 'Sharia' was tossed around. I remember screaming at the racist idiots calling in while sitting in the parking lot of a London coffee shop."
Bennett added that volunteers said they were happy to be on his team, because the year prior, "the campaign office felt like the Middle East."
"Now I see people expressing shock that a racist terrorist would drive his truck into the pathway of a Muslim family going for a walk. 'London is better than this' they say. 'I can't believe this happened here'. Bulls--t," Bennett wrote.
"I knocked on thousands of doors in the very neighbourhood this atrocity occurred. This terrorist may have been alone in that truck on that day, but he was not acting alone. He was raised in a racist city that pretends it isn't."
What we know about the accused in the fatal attack on a Muslim family in London, Ont.
The man facing murder charges after a truck jumped a London, Ont., curb and ran into a Muslim family of five, killing four of them, has left no traces on social media about his life. But a neighbour who spoke to CBC News said while the 20-year-old tended to keep to himself, he'd have frequent visitors at his apartment and there was constant noise. "Just banging in general and banging on the walls to the point my pictures are moving. If not that, loud music, video games — it was just intense." Neighbour shocked to hear of arrest She said she was shocked to learn of the charges Veltman now faces.
In order to address the pervasive issue of white supremacy, Patel said it's essential "to get to the root causes of the problem."
"The ideology has to be tackled," she said.
It's an issue that's been written about extensively by Barbara Perry, a social scientist and author on hate crimes at the University of Toronto Institute of Technology.
She said that in recent years, there have been "upwards of three hundred" active hate groups across the country. On top of the organized hate groups, she's seen an uptick in what she calls "floaters."
"Floaters (are) individuals who aren't necessarily affiliated with any particular group, but are in and out of different social media platforms, in and out of different groups, and sort of cherry-picking from their ideologies to suit their needs," Perry said.
These individuals are consuming what they're finding on "white supremacist, Islamophobic, neo-Nazi sites," Perry said, "and that is informing their own view of the world."
Patel agreed that online hate is a key part of the problem.
"People being exposed to that sort of language," she said.
"And then, in the event that someone does decide that ... they're kind of fed up, and they want to just do something more than just spew hate online, this is what they're going to turn to."
And as a community reels from the loss of four lives, Patel says something must be done to address these root causes.
"We need more leadership that brings tangible change. Again, we hear all of this 'never again, never again.' But it never turns into something concrete," Patel said.
"This has to be a wake-up call for the country."
-- With files from Global News' Joe Scarpelli and Sean Boynton
Canadians need to step up to tackle online hate — even with ‘crazy uncles’, says expert .
Four members of a Muslim family were struck and killed in a vehicle attack in London, Ont., one week ago. Police said they believe the family was targeted because of their faith. A nine-year boy who survived the attack is now an orphan. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned the attack as a "terrorist act," as did Ontario Premier Doug Ford and the National Council of Canadian Muslims last week. The attack has led to calls for the government to act on a promise to implement online hate legislation that would crack down on hateful material posted on the internet.