Canadians from coast to coast to coast, including in Montreal, are mourning the death of a Muslim family in London, Ont., who were killed while out on a walk.
The incident happened Sunday, after a man rammed his car into the family — an act police have described as targeted and hate-motivated.
“I was hoping there was a mistake in reporting,” said Ehab Lotayef of the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM).
“I didn’t want to live in this world, I didn’t want my children and grandchildren to live in this world.”
On Wednesday, Lotayef along with other community groups and leaders came together to organize a vigil that took place in Places des Arts, downtown Montreal.
The groups included the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) and the Centre international de documentation et d’information Haïtienne, Caribéenne et Afro-canadienne – CIDIHCA, among others.
A minute of silence was held to honour the lives of the victims.
Organizers and those in attendance condemned Islamophobia, racism and hatred and stood in solidarity with the family of the victims as well as the Muslim community.
“We had to show our solidarity. I think it was too much pain to bare by ourselves in our homes, so we wanted to be together…. we see so many people, it’s not only Muslims,” said Samaa El-Ibyari Canadian Council for Muslim women.
“At stake is the peace of our society, so we are all here to honour the victims and also to say we should do something so this will never happen again.”
Lotayef believes politicians have a role to play in ensuring the safety of all Canadians.
“I think this wave of hate and violence that we are seeing (was) started by populist politicians outside Canada,” Lotayef said. “And then we see that happening in Quebec, by the Legault government by things like Bill 21, it comes too close to home.
“No matter what they say about it, these things have a strong effect. Something like Bill 21 creates division, creates the ‘us and them’ within society. It creates the superiority feeling by some people.”
Bill 21 is Quebec’s provincial legislation that bars the wearing of religious symbols by some public service workers in positions of authority, including teachers and police officers while on the job.
“What we’re trying to do here is put a mirror in front of all politicians, especially the ones who decided to be divisive, and tell them there is a 9-year-old who lost his entire family,” Lotayef said. “If he becomes able to live a normal life, what will his life be like?
“I’m not trying to say that this is a direct responsibility of this politician or that politician. Just think about what role you played to have that happen. Think about next time you want to pass a law, think about next time you’re making a statement, think about next time you’re denying that there is systemic racism.
“Think about it. It is a responsibility.”
For Muslims, the London attack brings back memories of the Québec City mosque attack in 2017, when a gunman entered a mosque and killed six and injured five men because of their faith.
Lotayef says many members of the Muslim community thought that it was a one-off attack but the family’s death is making them nervous that it is not an isolated event.
“We really convinced ourselves of that. Now with what happened in London, Ont., I don’t think we can say that anymore. We are just going to be waiting when the next one will happen,” Lotayef explained.
“It is so sad that Canada becomes that place. It really is very sad.”
Both Lotayef and El-Ibyari encourage people to reach out to a member of the Muslim community and get to know them better.
“The first thing is to reach out to Muslims, see what they’re doing, know about their contributions in society and come to the realization that we are part and parcel of the society,” said El-Ibyari.
“We are here to build, we are not here to undermine any culture or any identity. We are here to contribute and this was our dream when we came to Canada.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has condemned the attack as a terrorist act, though police have not yet laid terrorism charges in the case.
— With files from Global’s Amanda Connolly and Katie Dangerfield