Mayor John Tory stopped by a Toronto Syrian restaurant to show his support after the owners said they were forced to shut down due to death threats and hate messages.
Tory spoke to Global News as he greeted staff and patrons during the lunch rush.
“When these things happen, we have to stand up and stand beside people like this and say: ‘Keep your business open. We’re going to come and support you. We’re glad that you’re here. We’re lucky that you’re here,’” he said.
The mayor visited the restaurant alongside coun. Joe Cressy.
“I think it is a tiny group of people who sit in dark rooms in their basement and I think they whip 10 of these pseudonyms up and put these messages out. I don’t know why they do it … and I don’t understand them, but they’re not typical of who we are,” Tory said.
The owners of Soufi’s on Queen Street West said they made the decision to close the doors after receiving death threats and messages of hate.
The family has said the threats stemmed from a September event featuring People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier, which media reports said the family’s eldest son attended.
The event became a lightning rod for criticism when video footage surfaced showing masked protesters blocking an elderly woman with a walker from entering the Sept. 29 event at Hamilton’s Mohawk College.
Hamilton police said they are investigating but have not laid any charges.
In a statement issued last week, the Al-Soufis said their son, Alaa, regretted the incident but that he did not verbally or physically assault the elderly woman.
“Alaa has been an activist and humanitarian for the past nine years, fighting for the rights of oppressed communities in Canada … We support and love our son for standing up against oppression,” the statement read.
The statement also said Alaa has offered to apologize personally “for not doing more.”
The Al-Soufi family said their son was physically assaulted and doxxed following the event.
Toronto police are investigating a complaint filed by the family, who said they have turned over hundreds of hate messages to the force.
The restaurant reopened Friday with support from Paramount Fine Foods CEO Mohamad Fakih. He said he will help the Al-Soufis manage the establishment until they feel safe enough to return.
Early on Saturday morning, a photo was posted to Twitter by David Turkoski, the son of the elderly woman trying to attend the Bernier rally, featuring him and the Al-Soufis.
“What a wonderful privilege and honour it was to meet Mr. and Mrs. Soufi. They are an amazing addition to my Canadian family. Reason and tolerance without screaming and fear is what we need. Fears have to be addressed or they grow,” the caption read.