Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today condemned a “brutal, cowardly and brazen” attack on a London, Ont. Muslim family, saying the hit-and-run that left four people dead was a terrorist assault motivated by religious hatred.
“This killing was no accident. This was a terrorist attack,” Trudeau said in a speech in the House of Commons.
Trudeau said Sunday’s attack was not a one-off, citing numerous eruptions of anti-Muslim violence in recent years that have claimed lives.
The Quebec City mosque massacre, the September murder of a man at a Rexdale, Ont. mosque and multiple less violent — but still alarming — episodes like the recent harassment of Black Muslim women in Edmonton reveal a troubling streak of Islamophobia in Canada, Trudeau said.
“They were all targeted because of their Muslim faith. This is happening here, in Canada, and it has to stop,” he said.
Just as Canadians mobilized to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, Trudeau said, the country must come together to fight an “ugly, pervasive trend” of anti-Muslim violence that threatens the security of some communities.
Trudeau said such attacks are fuelled by “toxic rhetoric … discrimination” and online “extremism” that has been allowed to fester.
A spokesperson for Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault said that, to address the proliferation of hateful content online, the government is drafting new legislation that will “ensure online platforms have a proactive duty to monitor and remove illegal content before it causes further harm.”
Drawing a link between the Sunday attack and the preliminary report of Indigenous children found buried at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C., Singh said Canadians “can’t deny” that their country is riddled with racism.
In the 2015 federal election campaign, the Conservative Party proposed barring Muslim women from wearing the niqab while taking the citizienship oath and announced plans for a “barbaric cultural practices” tipline so Canadians could report some crimes.
The vast majority of Conservative MPs also opposed M-103, a 2017 motion introduced by Ontario Liberal MP Iqra Khalid, which called on the Commons to denounce Islamophobia in the aftermath of the Quebec massacre that killed six.
All but two of the Tory MPs voted against the motion, citing a fear that it would unfairly limit freedom of speech and expression or shield Islam from criticism. Some Conservatives opposed to the motion said it would single out Islam for special treatment in Canadian law.
Other, more fringe elements suggested the motion would lead to the introduction of Shariah law in Canada.
Speaking later at a press conference today, Trudeau said politicians must “push back against fear and anxiety that directs itself at minorities.” He said that some MPs are more intent on dividing Canadians than uniting them.
But Trudeau has done little to address concerns about Quebec’s Bill 21, legislation that bans public servants from wearing religious symbols such as crosses, hijabs, turbans and yarmulkes while on the job.
Critics maintain that the legislation unfairly targets minorities by making them choose between a job and their identity. The prime minister said he doesn’t think the bill is discriminatory. Asked if he thought the bill fosters hatred and discrimination, Trudeau said “no.”
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said his thoughts were with the nine-year-old boy who survived the hit-and-run that left other members of his family dead.
“We have to strive to learn and be better. The Canada of his future needs to be better than the Canada of Sunday evening,” O’Toole said.
O’Toole said the pandemic has led to a “dramatic increase in hate crime and other signs of intolerance” and the country must address this intolerance.
“It’s important we measure the distance between the Canada we have and the Canada we want. But it’s more important to not just recognize the distance between those Canadas but to conquer the distance,” he said.
All of the major party leaders will travel to London today on government planes for a vigil service at the mosque the victims attended regularly.