OTTAWA (CityNews) — Canada’s federal leaders have united in their condemnation of the deadly truck attack in London, Ont., but some Muslim-Canadians and experts on extremism say those words are meaningless without a real plan to fight hate.
The attack in London killed four members of a Muslim family and left one child in hospital.
Police said a man intentionally drove a truck into the family out for a walk on Sunday evening, and that he targeted them because of their faith.
Nathaniel Veltman, 20, faces four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.
“We stand with the people of London and with Muslim communities across the country,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “We’re going to continue to fund initiatives like the security infrastructure program to help protect communities at risk and their schools and places of worship. We’ll continue to fight hate, online and offline.”
“It’s important that we measure the distance between the Canada that we have, and the Canada that we want,” said Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole. “But it’s more important for us not just to recognize the distance between those two Canadas, but to conquer the distance.”
Added NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh: “The reality is, this is our Canada. Our Canada is a place where 215 little kids were found dead in unmarked graves. Our Canada is a place where you can’t walk down the streets, if you wear a hijab, because you will be killed. This is our Canada. We can’t deny it. We can’t reject that. Because it does no one any help.”
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The main party leaders promised to fight the Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate that led to Sunday’s deadly attack.
But some Muslim-Canadians say they’re skeptical of talk without action.
“Thank you very much for your thoughts and prayers,” said Fareed Khan of Canadians United Against Hate. “But you know what? When people are dying, when people are being targeted because of their faith, or the colour of their skin or ethnicity, we need more than thoughts and prayers. We need concrete actions. Actions speak louder.”
This is the third act of mass violence against Muslim-Canadians since the 2017 Quebec City mosque shooting. Khan says the government’s action since then has been piecemeal and seemingly lacking direction.
Trudeau pointed to his government’s creation of a ministry of diversity and inclusion as evidence of his effort, but much grassroots work is being done by community groups that sometimes have problems getting funding.
“We need a strategic plan that really considers very carefully, where are the needs?” said professor Barbara Perry, the director of the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism. “Where across the country are the threats? Where are we seeing elevated rates of violence and hostility towards communities, and how can we direct resources there?”
Perry says parliament voting to condemn Islamophobia in 2017 was a good step, but as a non-binding motion, set a low bar, and one that some politicians tripped over. Ninety-one MPs — including O’Toole – voted against it.
O’Toole, Trudeau, Singh and Green party Leader Annamie Paul were set to attend a vigil in London Tuesday night, but one of the region’s imams says he hopes they’re there for more than a photo op.
“What we need is not a statement,” said Imam Munir El-Kassem of the Islamic Centre of Southwest Ontario. “What we need is an action plan. And we hope that we can declare tonight at the vigil in London that enough is enough — whether it is anti-Semitism, whether it is Islamophobia, whether it is any transgression against Indigenous communities.
“People should feel safe to live in their communities.”
— With files from Xiaoli Li and The Canadian Press