Canadian city where Muslim family killed gets funds to fight hate

Advocates welcome funding for anti-Islamophobia education campaign in London, Ontario, as ‘step towards positive change’.

People hug at a makeshift memorial to a Muslim family that was fatally run down in London, Ontario, Canada in 2021
Four members of the Afzaal family were killed when a driver ran them over with a pick-up truck in London, Ontario, on June 6, 2021, in what authorities said was an anti-Muslim attack [File: Carlos Osorio/Reuters]

Muslim community advocates in Canada have welcomed an effort aimed at combatting hate and Islamophobia in an Ontario city where a driver ran down a Muslim family two years ago, killing four people.

The government of Ontario announced this week that it was investing about $372,000 (500,000 Canadian dollars) to help the city of London develop an anti-hate public education campaign and an online library of resources.

On Friday, the National Council of Canadian Muslims advocacy organisation embraced the move as “another step … towards positive change”.

“That night two years ago changed the way our community sees itself in Canada,” the group’s CEO, Stephen Brown, said in an earlier statement.

“We were forced to confront hate directly, and that is an ongoing task for all Canadians of good will. This commitment toward public education will hopefully be a catalyst in that direction, as we still have a lot of work to do as a country to reckon with Islamophobia.”

Four members of the Afzaal family, including a 15-year-old, were killed on June 6, 2021, when a driver ran them over with a pick-up truck while they were out for a walk in London, a city of about 420,000 residents 200km (125 miles) west of Toronto.

Authorities said at the time that they were “targeted because of their Islamic faith”.

The attack renewed trauma for Muslim community members across Canada, many of whom were still reeling in the aftermath of a deadly 2017 assault on a Quebec mosque that left six worshippers dead and a fatal stabbing at another mosque in Toronto in 2020.

The London attack prompted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government to hold a national summit on Islamophobia, and in January of this year, Canada appointed its first special representative on combatting Islamophobia.

“Diversity truly is one of Canada’s greatest strengths, but for many Muslims, Islamophobia is all too familiar,” Trudeau said in a statement welcoming the new envoy, Amira Elghawaby, to her post.

A string of other incidents targeting Muslim Canadians have taken place in recent months, spurring new calls to tackle Islamophobia in the North American country.

London Mayor Josh Morgan said on Thursday that the new investments would help the city “promote acceptance for all Londoners”.

“Not only must we speak out against hatred, we must also take decisive and tangible action – and that’s exactly what this funding allows us to do,” Morgan said in a statement.

“Together, we will build a culture of respect and understanding that leaves no room for racism, intolerance or discrimination.”

Source: Al Jazeera