Petition urges government to create ‘National Day Against Islamophobia’

Mourners leave flowers at the site where a family of five was hit by a driver, in London, Ont., Monday, June 7, 2021. Four of the members of the family died and one is in critical condition. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Brett Gundlock

A petition from a London, Ont., high school student is calling on the federal government to take action on Islamophobia.

As of Thursday morning, more than 15,000 people had signed the petition on organized by Sir Frederick Banting Secondary School student Lillian Hartley.

The 17-year-old is calling on the federal government to create a National Day Against Islamophobia.

“I just really, really wanted to be able to reach out and let the Muslim community in London and nationwide know that there are so many people who care, who want to help, and we want to have a day to remember and mourn together.”

Read more: Snowbirds fly over London, Ont. to honour Afzaal family killed in attack

The petition is in response to the deadliest mass murder in London’s history.

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Salman Afzaal, 46, Madiha Salman, 44, Yumna Salman, 15, and Talat Afzaal, 74, were killed in the attack near Hyde Park and South Carriage roads. The only survivor was Fayez Afzaal, 9, who received serious, but non-life-threatening injuries as a result.

Police have referred to the attack as a hate crime and say the Muslim family was targeted because of their faith.

Hartley says she remembers being close to the site of the attack when it happened — a memory that inspired the petition.

“The night of the attack, my friend and I had actually been quite near to the site, and it really shocked me,” Hartley said.

“If we had been Muslim, that could have been us.”

Read more: Islamic Relief Canada compiling messages of hope for survivor of London, Ont. attack

Hartley hopes to have the day set annually for June 6, the night of the attack.

“We do not currently have a day to celebrate the contributions of our Canadian Muslim community, think of those who are affected by Islamophobia and hate crimes against Muslims, or to remember those who lost their lives and loved ones during the June 6 atrocity,” Hartley posted in the online petition.

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Earlier this week, city council voted unanimously to denounce Islamophobia.

On Monday, the victims’ family spokesperson revealed that Fayez, the nine-year-old injured in the attack, had been released from hospital and is recovering at home with family. He is expected to make a full recovery.

The 20-year-old man accused in the attack faces four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder. On Monday, Crown prosecutors alleged that each offence constituted an act of terrorism.

The case returns to court on June 21.

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