Local Muslim community leaders have penned a letter calling for all Ontario provincial parties to commit to passing the Our London Family Act within 100 days of the Ontario election.
The Ontario New Democrats tabled the new legislation back in February to address Islamophobia and other forms of hate less than a year after the attack in London, Ont., last summer.
The Our London Family Act, or Bill 86, addresses calls from Muslim leaders to take concrete, meaningful action to combat Islamophobia in Ontario.
The motion from the NDP failed to pass in March before the legislature dissolved ahead of the June 2 election.
Following this decision, 11 Muslim organizations, including The National Council of Canadian Muslims and the London Muslim Mosque, signed a joint letter to Premier Doug Ford and all other provincial party leaders to commit to passing the bill in a set timeframe.
“Last week, when Minister Calandra stood in Queen’s Park to note that while the government was supportive of passing the Our London Family Act, it would not be passing before the election and that the government would bring it back if elected, we were frankly heartbroken,” the joint letter reads.
The groups are asking that all provincial parties commit to putting into their platforms a promise to work in a thoroughly bipartisan fashion to see the passage of a version of the Our London Family Act within the first 100 days of the term.
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“We are seeing positive steps in wanting to do more, and we’ve heard the commitment from leader Andrea Horwath, we have heard a from Liberal leader Steven Del Duca, and now it’s up to the government. It’s up to the premier to step up and suggest that he is committed to putting it in his platform because this isn’t a partisan issue. This is an issue for all Canadian Muslims and needs to be addressed as soon as possible,” Fatema Abdalla, Communications Coordinator for NCCM, told Global News.
“On the night of the vigil in London, Ont., all three government leaders stepped up and said that they see and hear the need for more, the need for more action. So passing (the) Our London family Act will prove that they believe that they are committed to those words that they said that night.”
On June 6, 2021, 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, 21, is facing four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder in the June 2021 attack, the deadliest mass murder in London’s history. Veltman has also been charged with “murder-terrorist activity.”
Veltman’s trial will begin on Sept. 5, 2023, before Justice Renee M. Pomerance, with 12 weeks set aside for the proceedings. He has not yet entered a plea to his charges.
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.
It also calls 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.
— with files from Matthew Trevithick