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Ottawa Muslim family shaken after being told ‘go back to where you came from’ over dog-leash argument

Click to play video: 'Ottawa family told ‘go back to where you came from’ after confrontation in Manotick, Ont.' Ottawa family told ‘go back to where you came from’ after confrontation in Manotick, Ont.
Haider Rizvi says his family is feeling shaken following an incident in Ottawa Monday night in which a man told them to “go back to where (they) came from” after a confrontation over leashing his dog. Their recording of that video, a portion of which is here, has attracted an outpouring of anger and support for the Muslim family online – Jul 20, 2021

A confrontation caught on camera about a man leashing his dog on a path in Manotick has a Muslim family feeling shaken after they were told “go back to where you came from.”

A 99-second video posted to Ottawa’s local subreddit page captures the interaction between the Rizvi family and a man walking his dog as they meet on a path near the family’s home in the south-end suburb.

Seen in frame is a small, collared dog walking freely on the path. The Rizvis, recording the scene, are heard in a debate with the dog’s owner about whether the rules about leashing his dog should apply.

The dog’s owner questions whether it would make a difference if his dog is leashed or not, while the Rizvis argue the rules should apply to everyone walking a dog on the path, referencing a sign stating the leash protocol.

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“You know why you don’t get along with people? Because of your attitude,” the unidentified man is heard saying.

Haider Rizvi, who begins ushering his parents back towards their home in the footage, says, “We’re just asking you to follow the rules. Thank you and have a good day.”

The two parties begin to separate on the path until the man is heard saying back to them, “go back to where you came from,” at which point Haider turns back.

“Excuse me?,” he says.

“Yeah, I said it,” the man replies.

Haider’s father notes then that he’s filming the interaction.

“What is that supposed to mean?,” Haider asks again.

“I said go back to your house,” the man says.

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The incident has been decried as racist on the Ottawa subreddit where it was posted Monday night.

Read more: London and Quebec City mayors join forces in joint letter supporting action summit on Islamophobia

Speaking to Global News about the incident on Tuesday, Haider said what was caught on camera was the latest in a series of confrontations between the man and his family about leashing his dog.

His mother is allergic and afraid of dogs, and has been frightened by run-ins with the dog in question before this.

Haider said he tried to end the confrontation when the man brought up their “attitude,” as he sensed it escalating.

“It started to hit me that maybe he means that we were not problems as neighbours, but we’re problems as immigrants, as Muslims, as Pakistanis,” he said.

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“This isn’t the first time I’ve been told to go back to where I came from. And I don’t think it’s the first time several people in my family or several of my friends have been told that. So we knew what he meant.”

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Haider said he also doesn’t buy that the man meant the family, who moved to Canada from Pakistan when he was young, should go back to their house.

“If he meant ‘go back to your house,’ he would have said ‘go back to your house.’ I’ve been told in the past these exact same words, that you need to go back to where you come from. That’s a very common thing immigrants and people of colour are told. So I don’t buy the excuse at all.”

Rideau-Goulbourn Coun. Scott Moffatt, whose ward includes the Manotick neighbourhood where the incident took place, also called out the “standard racist comment” on Twitter.

“We all know what that means when it’s said. It’s wrong,” he said. “Further, his dog should be on a leash.”

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Haider said he reported the incident to both Ottawa bylaw and police. He hadn’t heard back from police at the time of writing, but he said he was told a bylaw officer would follow up later in the week.

Roger Chapman, the head of Ottawa’s bylaw and regulatory services, confirmed to Global News in a statement Tuesday evening that the city had received a complaint about a dog allegedly off-leash in the area and that the matter is under investigation.

Haider’s brother Baqar Rizvi, who lives in Toronto but posted the video on his family’s behalf, said it was important for him to share their experience to show others how quickly these situations can escalate.

“This needs to be spoken out about and more people should know. My parents, my family, they’re just following the rules. I think everyone can do the exact same thing instead of acting more entitled. And, unfortunately, he kind of went off the rails with the racist remarks over there,” he told Global News.

He and his brother both said that awareness of Islamophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment has been on the rise since the vehicle attack in London, Ont., on June 6 that saw four members of a Muslim family killed while they were out for an evening walk.

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That attack hit close to home for his parents, Haider said, who have now had their anxiety amplified.

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“They’ve already been sort of on edge because of that. And so just knowing that literally just a few doors down from us, there’s someone who’s told us that we’re a problem, we’re not liked here, we need to go back to where it came from, It’s just kind of shook us. And it’s a very unsettling feeling,” he said.

Both Baqar and Haider said it’s been reassuring to see the outpouring of support from people who denounced the man’s comments. But Baqar also noted that incidents like this happen to him on an annual basis in Toronto, and to other Muslim community members.

Read more: Hate crime reports up 57% in 2020, Ottawa police say

The difference here, he said, is that the incident was caught on camera.

“In this case, we were fortunate enough to catch it. But there’s so many instances where this gets unreported and no one really knows about it,” Baqar said.

The Rizvi brothers said it was important for them to share the footage for others who experience hateful behaviour on a regular basis but might not feel supported when it occurs offline.

“Posting this, hopefully people see that it does happen. It is wrong. People are telling us they are wrong. People are telling us they support us and they’re letting us know that we are welcomed and we are supportive and just having that feeling as it means a lot,” Haider said.

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