Porch arson was hate-motivated, home targeted many times before: London police

Click to play video: 'Special envoys to help combat antisemitism, Islamophobia amid rising hate crimes'
Special envoys to help combat antisemitism, Islamophobia amid rising hate crimes
During question period on Wednesday in the House of Commons, Liberal MP Ben Carr said that antisemitism and Islamophobia were “on the rise” amid growing tensions from the Israel-Hamas conflict. Minister of Diversity, Inclusion and Persons with Disabilities Kamal Khera said that the special envoys Deborah Lyons and Amira Elghawaby will work together to support both communities – Oct 18, 2023

A fire on the front porch of a home in London, Ont., over the weekend is being treated as hate-motivated by police and the latest in a string of escalating incidents targeting the household.

Police say a man arrived at the house on Wateroak Drive on foot at around 9:30 p.m. Saturday and left “with some items he took from the front yard.” About an hour later, police believe the same man returned and started a fire on the porch before taking off.

Emergency services arrived about 10 minutes later to extinguish the fire. No injuries were reported but the damage is estimated at $30,000.

The home, in an affluent area of northwest London, has been the target of “several other incidents” since the beginning of May, according to Detective Inspector Alex Krygsman.

The incidents involved “property damage, theft of signs, a threatening note that was left, leading up to the events of (Saturday) night. The signs were signs that expressed support for Palestine,” Krygsman added.

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On Monday, Krygsman clarified that police are investigating the arson and are “aware of previous incidents.”

“Determining whether these are linked and whether the same person was involved in them forms part of our investigation. Further updates will be provided as appropriate.”

Nawaz Tahir, a local lawyer and board member for the Muslim advocacy group Hikma, claimed signs for Our London Family were also taken down. The Our London Family movement was created in support of the Afzaal family and London’s Muslim community in the wake of the June 2021 terrorist attack that saw a young man intentionally run down a family in his truck, seriously injuring a little boy and killing his parents, sister and grandmother.

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Tahir also suggested the family was “warned to not put more (signs) up.”

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Hikma said it has been in contact with the residents of the Wateroak Drive address. Tahir said Monday that Hikma members are “quite concerned for their safety and the safety of their neighbourhood.”

However, Tahir expressed thanks to police for taking this “so seriously.”

A surveillance photo of a man in a mask and dark-coloured clothing.
London police have released a photo of a suspect wanted in connection with a hate-motivated arson investigation. via the London Police Service

Police released a photo of the arson suspect and describe him as a man between the ages of 30 and 50 with a medium to heavy build who was wearing grey shoes, dark pants, a light grey zip-up sweater with vertical black accents on the sides under the arms, a dark-coloured toque, and a medical mask.

“I want to express very clearly that this is a deep priority for the London Police Service. We have members from our uniformed division, criminal investigation division (and) the community services unit involved in the response to this and the investigation,” Krygsman said Sunday.

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“I can also tell you that our chief has been fully engaged with the mayor and members of city council since early this morning.”

Krygsman also expressed thanks to several neighbours “who came to the assistance of the homeowners” as well as “members of this community who have truly supported the London Police Service during this investigation.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also tweeted about the incident, stating that his heart goes out to the family and that “Canadians have seen how dangerous and ugly Islamophobia is. We have to keep confronting it—wherever and whenever we see it.”

Neither police nor Tahir have confirmed that the family involved is Muslim, only that they have expressed support for Our London Family and for Palestine through their lawn signs.

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Hate-motivated crimes have been rising in London, according to data released by the police last month. Hate- or bias-motivated crimes rose by nearly 40 per cent in 2023 compared to the year prior, police said.

More than one in four reported hate crimes in 2023 were against members of the LGBTQ2 community, though London’s Muslim and Jewish communities both saw steep increases in reported occurrences.

In both cases, the number of reported incidents climbed sharply following the Oct. 7, 2023 Hamas attack.

— with files from Global News’ Ben Harrietha

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