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Ontario NDP introduce ‘Our London Family Act’ to address Islamophobia

A woman sits and weeps at the scene of Sunday's hate-motivated vehicle attack in London, Ont. on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. Four members of a family in London, Ont., are set to be buried today. The public has been invited to help celebrate the lives of Talat Afzaal, 74, her son Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, and their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Salman.THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Geoff Robins.

Ontario’s New Democrats have tabled new legislation to address Islamophobia and other forms of hate less than a year after the attack in London Ont., last summer.

NDP York-South-Weston MPP Faisal Hassan presented the Our London Family Act on behalf of the NDP in the Ontario legislature Wednesday afternoon.

“No one should have to fear for their safety while walking wearing a hijab or worshipping at a masjid. Hate crimes and Islamophobia are on the rise in Canada, and we must do everything to ensure Ontario is a place where generations of Muslim families can live without being targeted by violence and hate, no matter the religion they practice, their clothes, or the colour of their skin,” Hassan said.

The bill addresses calls from Muslim leaders to take concrete, meaningful action to combat Islamophobia in Ontario.

“Today, we are watching history as Andrea Horwath and the Ontario NDP introduce the Our London Family Act at Queen’s Park. Last year, a family lost three generations in a single night in the London terror attack,” 
said Mustafa Farooq, CEO of the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM).

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“As this piece of legislation comes forward, with the support of other parties in Queen’s Park, we are urging all of our elected officials to pass it as soon as possible.”

Imam Aarij Anwer of the London Muslim Mosque and the NCCM have been calling for change following the June 6, 2021 attack in London.

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On June 6, four members of the Afzaal family were killed when they were hit by a truck driven off the road, in what police allege was a targeted attack because of their Islamic faith.

Salman Afzaal, 46, his 44-year-old wife Madiha Salman, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna and her 74-year-old grandmother, Talat Afzaal, were killed while out for an evening walk on June 6. The couple’s nine-year-old son, Fayez, was seriously hurt.

Nathaniel Veltman, 20, is accused of deliberately hitting the family with his truck. He is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder in what prosecutors say was an act of terrorism.

The act also comes after reports of other Islamophobic incidents in Ontario and across Canada.

“In 2020, Mohamed Aslim Zafis was killed at the IMO Mosque in Toronto at the hands of a man with links to a white supremacist group. Ontario has lost far too many people to Islamophobia far too recently. This cannot be allowed to continue,” said Farooq.

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The bill outlines changes like a provincial review of hate crimes and hate-motivated incidents in Ontario, safe zones around religious institutions, and new tools and strategies for Ontario schools to combat all forms of racism.

The bill is also calling for the Speaker to ban protests at Queen’s Park that incite racist, homophobic, transphobic or xenophobic hate, and prevent white supremacy groups to register as societies.

Under the act, Ontario would establish an Anti-Racism Advisory and Advocacy Council, to ensure racialized communities have a say in government policies that impact their lives.

Ontario politicians are set to debate the bill on Thursday, Mar. 10, 2021, before it is voted on.

Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath said it’s important that everyone feels safe leaving their house, regardless of how they look.

“We know each and everyday members of the Muslim community are facing ugliness, they are facing hatred, and they are facing racism, and all of it is quite damaging and very unacceptable.”

— with files from The Canadian Press

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