Future of the ‘Our London Family Act’ unknown following Ontario election results

Click to play video: 'London, Ont. attack suspect formally charged with terrorism' London, Ont. attack suspect formally charged with terrorism
Terrorism charges have been filed against the suspect accused of killing four members of a London, Ont., family in what police have called a targeted attack on Muslims. Nathaniel Veltman was already facing first-degree and attempted murder charges. Catherine McDonald has more. – Jun 14, 2021

The re-election of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario for a second term with a sweeping majority brings into question the future of the Our London Family Act.

The Ontario New Democratic Party tabled the new legislation back in February to address Islamophobia and other forms of hate after last year’s vehicle attack, where four members of a Muslim family were killed in what police say is a hate-motivated crime. The NDP’s motion failed to pass in March.

The Our London Family Act, also known as Bill 86, addresses calls from Muslim leaders to take concrete, meaningful action to combat Islamophobia in Ontario.

With the election behind us, a local lawyer and a member of the Muslim community, Nawaz Tahir, is hopeful the act will pass soon.

“We want to remain optimistic that now that the political climate is settled, we can focus on getting this passed,” he said.

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“We would have thought that it would be an easy piece to sort of say on a nonpartisan basis, we’re going to work together and pass this quickly. We hope now the government will, in fact, do that and commit to that.”

Read more: Muslim community calls on Ontario leaders to commit to Our London Family Act after election

The hope of those involved in the bill was that it would pass before the legislature dissolved ahead of the election.

After the bill failed to pass, 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 that asked them to commit to passing the bill in a set timeframe.

After getting re-elected, London West MPP Peggy Sattler, one of the writers of the bill, told reporters Thursday that she would do “whatever is necessary to make that legislation into law.”

“We worked in good faith with the government house leader, with the minister responsible prior to the election, to find a path forward to expedite that legislation. … They refused to do what was needed, but we’re going to restart that conversation,” she said.

“This can’t be playing politics. This has to be a good faith effort to move that legislation forward.”

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Read more: London, Ont. to host several events in June in memory of Afzaal family

Back in April, Government House Leader and Progressive Conservative MPP Paul Calandra said the bill needed more work to “strengthen it” before it passed.

“There will be new people sitting in this legislature after June 2, and they will ensure the proper bill, a strengthened bill, and a bill that meets the ends of the community and what the community wants it passed,” Calandra said.

Monday, June 6, is the anniversary of the Afzaal family’s death.

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 was seriously hurt.

To mark the anniversary of London deadliest mass murder, several events have been organized in memory of those killed, including a march on June 5, from Oakridge Secondary School to the London Music Mosque.

A vigil will also be held on June 6 at the site of the attack.

Read more: Family speaks out ahead of first anniversary of deadly attack in London, Ont.

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Earlier this week, the Afzaal family released a statement that said the “heinous act” was still difficult to comprehend.

“To lose three generations of our family was a catastrophe, but our community came together and has provided us with hope and strength,” wrote Umar Afzaal, Salman’s brother, in a statement on behalf of the rest of the family.

“In our view, June 6, 2021, marked a day when life was not only taken from four innocent people, but from the whole of humanity. We, the Afzaal family, condemn all types of violence motivated by hatred.”

— with files from Andrew Graham, The Canadian Press

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