London Murder of 4 Muslims of same Family and Seriously injured the  Child,Councillor Jan Harder, City of Ottawa

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London Murder of 4 Muslims of same Family and Seriously injured the  Child,Councillor Jan Harder

As I write this, on June 6th, 4 members of a family were tragically killed and a child seriously injured, by a hate-driven act of extreme violence.  The tragedy was felt in every community in Ontario, and indeed all of Canada. The family was doing what millions have done during the pandemic – taking a stroll to enjoy the fresh air and likely taking a break from online schooling, work and the daily stress that we all face.  Sadly, and horrifyingly, they were targeted that evening simply because they were Muslim.  This senseless act of violence is shocking to the majority of Canadians who believe in a country of freedom of beliefs, celebrates its people of diverse ethnicities and peaceful existence.

The action of one man should not define Canadians as a whole.  However, it should make us all reflect on who we are as a nation.  The sad and shocking reality is, although the majority of Canadians do not share this hatred that led to this senseless act, there are certainly aggressions that occur every day by even those who claim to be non-racist.  The rise of violence amongst Islamic and Asian people, for example, demonstrates there is a problem.  More disturbing is that racism and Islamaphobia, are not necessarily just right-wing issues. The rise in these crimes is coming from all different groups of people evidenced by the vitriol seen in social media.  It would be easy to blame white supremacists for all this hatred, but it is not the case.  It is a problem that needs to be spoken about and addressed.  What is driving this hatred?  The pandemic certainly has left many people vulnerable, stressed and afraid. However, acts of violence such as the London attack have existed even before COVID-19 upended our lives.  I think, in part, what drives this fear is the fear of the unknown.  It is not and should not be an excuse for violence. However, knowing this, may be a start to changing things.

Growing up in Ottawa and as a Christian, I knew very few people that looked and lived differently from me.  This is not to say that Ottawa was completely homogenous, but the last 20 years have, in many ways, changed the “face” of our city.  Today, people of colour, different creeds, and ethnicity live all over Ottawa.  This city belongs to everyone. Mosques, churches, temples can and do exist side-by-side. It is as easy to get shawarma as it is to get a burger.  Having a different faith, looking different whether in dress or skin tone, speaking different languages and even being able to taste the foods from around the world, is what has made this city more vibrant and worldly.  Diversity is what strengthens us.

Our children are born without the prejudices that taint people.  We have to foster and allow that state to flourish.  The language we use, the actions we perform, the way we treat others, are all absorbed by the curious minds of children.  Children need to play with others who don’t look like them, who believe in different things and live differently so that they can stop the hate and violence that is occurring.  It is the easiest and simplest way to start to change things.

CBC journalist Aaron Wherry writes, “Tragedy should never be a precondition for action, but it can be a spur to redouble one’s efforts. It creates moments that can be seized to advance progress.”  We are past the point of talking, and we must be ready for change.

To Salman, Madiha, Yumna, Talat and Fayez, I am sorry.  I am sorry that this happened to you.  I am sorry that hatred took you away.  To my Muslim friends, I share your fear and anxiety.  I am listening. How can I help?  Our country must and can do better.