The Imam of a Halifax mosque is calling for all levels of government to implement a nationwide system that directly addresses hate crimes in Canada.
“We all see a spike in Islamophobic attacks, in hate speeches, and in hate crimes all around the country. And, it is very obvious that we are not doing enough,” said Imam Abdallah Yousri of Ummah Mosque in Halifax.
A Muslim family in London, Ont., went for a walk in their neighbourhood on Sunday night when four of the five family members were killed when a 20-year-old London man struck them with his vehicle.
Area police say the deadly attack is a hate crime and they have evidence to support that the family was targeted because of their Muslim faith.
Police have not released the names of the victims, but a statement released by the family late Monday identifies them as Salman Afzaal, 46, his 44-year-old wife Madiha Salman, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Salman and Afzaal’s 74-year-old mother.
The couple’s nine-year-old son, Fayez, was seriously injured but is expected to survive.
Yousri says this Islamophobic attack is particularly troublesome because of its brazen nature.
The 20-year-old was charged with four counts of first-degree murder and a count of attempted murder.
Yousri says policies are desperately needed in Canada to track and hold perpetrators of hate-fueled actions to account before their motives escalate into acts of violence.
“We need to have clear definition of Islamophobia. We need to have clear definition of hate crimes, hate speeches. We need to have clear reporting system for hate crimes, for hate speeches, in particular. We need to have programs funded by the government to tackle these issues,” he said.
Last July, A Halifax cab driver was verbally attacked with racial slurs when he asked his passenger to wear a mask due to COVID-19 safety concerns.
The racist attack that followed was recorded in its entirety on Kuldip Dhunna’s camera but when he reported it to Halifax Regional Police he was told there weren’t enough grounds to lay criminal charges.
Global News requested an interview with HRP Chief Dan Kinsella to discuss concerns over hate crime reporting in the community but was told he wasn’t available.
An email statement was sent which in part reads, “even if the investigation does not find criminal wrongdoing in that specific incident, it is important to have it on record,” Cst. John MacLeod wrote, HRP’s public information officer.
Halifax mayor Mike Savage says the Federation of Canadian Municipalities recently passed a motion calling on Ottawa to strengthen hate speech laws.
“There is hate that exists and people say you can’t legislate against it — you, in fact, can have legislation that puts protection in,” Savage said.
Yousri says a vigil will be held in the Ummah Mosque parking lot at 7 pm on Wednesday. He encourages the public to attend with adherence to public health rules.
— With files from Global News’ Joe Scarpelli, Sean Boynton and Rachel Gilmore