Toronto Syrian restaurant owners filing complaint about hate messages: police

The sign for Soufi's restaurant downtown which says it has closed its door due to hate messages and death threats.
The sign for Soufi's restaurant downtown which says it has closed its door due to hate messages and death threats. Shallima Maharaj/Global News

TORONTO – A Toronto family who said it was forced to close their popular Syrian restaurant after receiving a series of hate messages and death threats has filed a complaint with city police, the force said Wednesday.

Const. Victor Kwong said investigators met with members of the Alsoufi family and are launching an investigation. He did not disclose details of the allegations contained in the police report.

“As we speak officers are over there taking a full report from them and starting the investigation,” Kwong said in a telephone interview.

READ MORE: Toronto Syrian restaurant says it was forced to close after receiving death threats

The complaint comes a day after the family announced they were closing Soufi’s restaurant, a Syrian eatery in the downtown core that had enjoyed local and international plaudits until the past two weeks.

But ever since a member of the family protested against a political event featuring People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier late last month, the family said they’ve been dealing with a number of hateful messages and active threats that prompted them to close the restaurant for the safety of all staff.

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“As a result of numerous hate messages and death threats we’ve received over the past week, we’ve decided to permanently close our shop,” a post on the restaurant’s Instagram account reads. “Our decision is made with a heavy heart in effort to maintain our family and staff’s safety.”

WATCH: The Alsoufi family said they’ve been forced to close their restaurant after their son’s involvement in an antifa rally resulted in death threats. Kamil Karamali reports.
Toronto restaurant closes after death threats
Toronto restaurant closes after death threats

The restaurant had recently earned a national profile after the Sept. 29 discussion in Hamilton featuring Bernier, which drew a vocal crowd of protesters.

Several media reports say a now-deleted Facebook post indicated the owner’s son had been among those attending the demonstration, and that he regrets not stepping aside or intervening when an elderly woman was blocked from entering the event and verbally harassed.

Toronto police had previously said officers received a call from a member of the family on Oct. 2 indicating they wished to file a formal report about hate speech and threats.

They said no one was at the restaurant when officers attended the scene, and they have not been able to reconnect since.

READ MORE: Protesters, supporters clash outside Maxime Bernier event in Hamilton

Prior to its closure, Soufi’s had earned a reputation as both a local hot spot and a success story tied to the influx of Syrian refugees that have arrived in Canada in recent years.

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According to a New York Times profile of the restaurant published in 2018, the business was operated by a mother, father and two children in their 20s. The elder of those children was the one owners claimed attended the Bernier event as a protester, according to media reports.

The demonstration became a lightning rod for criticism when video footage surfaced showing masked protesters blocking an elderly woman with a walker from entering the event at Hamilton’s Mohawk College.

Hamilton police say they’re actively investigating the events around the Sept. 29 appearance, but have not laid any charges.

Toronto Mayor John Tory said Wednesday that he is “heartbroken” over the Alsoufi family’s ordeal.

“I sincerely hope the family will reconsider and reopen the restaurant because we support them, we will continue to support them, and the best way to fight this kind of hate is to support them and their business,” Tory said in an email statement.