In London, Ontario, on Sunday, June 6th, 2021, an Islam family was struck intentionally while waiting at the crosswalk by a white male (Nathaniel Veltman) driving a pick-up truck. The grandmother (77), mother (44), father (46), and daughter (15), were announced dead on the scene while the son (9) was rushed to the hospital. The act is told to have been premeditated and on the basis of the family’s religion, Nathaniel is being charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.
Islamophobia may not seem like a prevalent issue in Canada, but this impression might come from a lack of attention to the news.
The attack on the family is said to be the worst since six members were gunned down by a man in a Mosque in 2017.
In a country that has been known as “the melting pot” for all its various religions, ethnicities, and backgrounds, events like this are a sharp reminder of its imperfections and discriminations. Statistics Canada said in March of 2019 (the last year for which the data is available), police-reported hate crimes against Muslims “rose slightly” from 166 incidents the previous year, to 181 incidents.
The Afzal family is said to have been model citizens by fellow members of the London community. The children excelled as students in their respective grades, and the parents were incredibly well educated (Madiha, the mother, working on her Ph.D.) as well as phenomenal employees. The family had immigrated to Canada from Pakistan 15 years ago but have since been exemplar representations of those that hold their religious faith closely while taking pride in being both Pakistani and Canadian citizens.
By the loss of these innocent and honourable people, a flaw in our seemingly perfect system has been revealed.
After the incident, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted: “I’m horrified by the news from London, Ontario. To the loved ones of those who were terrorized by yesterday’s act of hatred, we are here for you. We are also here for the child who remains in hospital – our hearts go out to you, and you will be in our thoughts as you recover.” As well as: “To the Muslim community in London and to Muslims across the country, know that we stand with you. Islamophobia has no place in any of our communities. This hate is insidious and despicable – and it must stop.”
Since the attack of 9/11, Islamophobia has been rampant in the United States. Out of fear and ignorance, people discriminated against anyone who looks middle eastern or that follows an eastern faith. As Canadians and border partners to America, habits that display such xenophobic tendencies must be irradicated and extinct.
While it is undeniable that 9/11 was an infamous tragedy to not only America but worldwide; it is simply unacceptable to believe that terrorism only comes from one background and one faith.
In fact, since 2000, Canada has reported 20 terrorist attacks. More than half of the attacks were done by Quebec nationalists or are related to the separation of Quebec from Canada. Of course, it can’t be ignored that Islamic extremists do exist, but it also must be recognized that a majority of the Islam population does not favour the extremists and should not be grouped among them.
Although it seems like a concept that is fairly comprehensible, some still don’t get it.
Merely because some ethnicities don’t look like you, does not make them corrupt.
Simply because they don’t practice the same faith as you, does not make them evil.
Practice acceptance and learning so we can create a community where othering does not exist and unity does.
For more information:
LONDON, Ontario (Reuters – Carolos Osorio) Several hundred mourners joined a public funeral service on Saturday to bid farewell to a Canadian Muslim family run over and killed by a man in a pick-up truck last Sunday in an attack the police said was driven by hate.
The hour-long ceremony started after the four coffins draped in Canadian flags rolled into the compound of the Islamic Centre of Southwest Ontario, and ended with prayers and condolences offered by religious and community leaders.
The four victims, spanning three generations, were killed when Nathaniel Veltman, 20, ran into them while they were out for an evening walk near their home in London, Ontario. A fifth family member, a 9-year-old boy, is recovering from his injuries in the hospital.
Police have said the attack was premeditated and allege the family was targeted because of their Islamic faith.
The funeral procession later proceeded for a private burial.
“And the very fact their coffins are draped in the beautiful Canadian flag is an apt testimony of the fact that the entire Canadian nation stands with them,” Raza Bashir Tarar High Commissioner for Pakistan to Canada told the gathering.