Hundreds of Calgarians banded together Tuesday evening to denounce Islamophobia as they lit candles in remembrance of a Muslim family killed in Ontario during a targeted attack.
The family of five was walking in their London, Ont., community Sunday evening when they were intentionally struck by a truck. Four were killed and the youngest, a nine-year-old boy, was taken to hospital with serious injuries.
London police said there is evidence the attack was a “premeditated act motivated by hate.”
The vigil in Calgary honoured the family with a moment of silence, prayer and speeches from community advocates and interfaith leaders. Many mask-clad attendees carried signs calling for changes, some of which read “United Against Anti-Muslim Hate” and “It’s Time to End Racism — Will You Take Action?”
“We cannot fight Islamophobia by ourselves anymore, we need the rest of Canada to step up,” said local activist Saima Jamal, co-founder of the Calgary Immigrant Support Society.
She hopes the vigil brings awareness to the need for systemic change to protect Muslim lives. She is calling for change at all levels of government to support Canada’s Muslim communities.
“We are going through a collective trauma. All of us are hurting coast to coast. If we don’t come together and support each other, we can’t get over this trauma,” said Jamal.
“It is time the government makes legislation that gives law enforcement some teeth to fight hate crime, to fight Islamophobia . . . We cannot think that things will just change or that this is just a phase.”
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi opened a committee meeting Tuesday with a moment of silence for the Muslim family, after expressing his grief on social media the evening before.
“We have to understand that when we allow these acts to go forward, when we spend a day debating whether we should call something terrorism — which it clearly is — and use that term domestic terrorism, cause that’s different than the other kind, we’re complicit,” Nenshi said.
“Let’s not pretend we’re shocked by this. Let’s not think that this is unthinkable that this happened on our soil. Let’s understand that this is the result of actions that we take and, importantly, actions that we do not take in fighting racism in our community.”
He recalled the attack on a Muslim woman at Prince’s Island Park just over two months ago.
The young woman was beaten and her hijab torn by an assailant, a 28-year-old woman who was charged with assault, while the victim and her friend were strolling through the park that Sunday afternoon in March.
The mere act of taking an evening walk is now considered a show of bravery for Muslim families, Jamal said.
Less than two weeks ago, on May 27, Calgary police charged a man with mischief to a motor vehicle, after video footage of a hate-motivated road rage incident on Bow Trail S.W. was shared on social media.
Investigators said a man ran up to the victim’s car after blocking him on the road, called the victim a “terrorist” and said he had a picture of “Allah and Muhammad” in his truck while banging on the window. The man then ripped a windshield wiper off the victim’s car and drove off.
Riyaz Khawaja, spokesman for Hussaini Association of Calgary, said the local Muslim community is in shock following the attack in London, though they have witnessed a rise in anti-Muslim hate.
“We are worried and we are fearful of this hate and these hate-related incidents,” Khawaja said. “An attack on any faith is not acceptable. We should unite, people of all faiths and Canadians, against hate. The lost lives cannot be brought back but we can share our sympathies.”
A GoFundMe for the family and surviving nine-year-old boy had raised more than $450,000 by Tuesday afternoon.