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'I feel like nothing has changed': Crowds at Ottawa vigil for London, Ont. family don't believe Islamophobia will go away

·Contributor
·2-min read

The scene at a vigil in Ottawa, Ont. is far too familiar for Ingie El-Saka who joined dozens of people gathered at the Human Rights Monument to mourn the four victims killed in a hate-motivated attack in London, Ont., Tuesday night.

She attended a vigil in 2017 to mourn the lives of six men who were gunned down at the Islamic Care Centre in Quebec City.

“It’s sad because I feel like nothing has changed,” El-Saka said. “I feel like our voices are not being heard.”

The killing of three generations of a Muslim family became the reason El-Saka and other community members gathered. The Afzaal family was out on an evening walk on Sunday when they were struck by a pick-up truck.

London Police Service have charged 20-year-old Nathaniel Veltman with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.

Nabila Kaci, a human rights activist and teacher, was fighting back tears as she addressed the crowd.

“I feel fear,” she said. “I have a 15-year-old boy. I fear maybe one day we will go walking and not make it back.”

Kaci also took a moment to address Fayaz Afzaal, a 9-year-old boy and sole survivor of the attack, in her remarks.

“Sorry Fayaz, we should have done more. I should have done more,” she said. “I should have sent more emails to my [member of parliament].”

At least two politicians were in attendance in support of the Muslim community—Catherine McKenna, minister of infrastructure and communities, and Joel Harden, member of provincial parliament for Ottawa Centre.

A tearful McKenna said Canada was ‘asking too much of the Muslim community,' enduring tragedy after tragedy, and the government will do everything to fight Islamophobia but that it requires collective effort.

“I know all parties stand against this but they have to be louder. We have to be louder and do everything we can.”

Crowds gather in Ottawa, Ont. to honour the Afzaal family. The London, Ont. family was killed while taking an evening stroll in an alleged terrorist act.
Crowds gather in Ottawa, Ont. to honour the Afzaal family. The London, Ont. family was killed while taking an evening stroll in an alleged terrorist act.

Sahada Alolo, from the Ottawa Muslim Women’s Organization, said Muslim women were often not taken seriously when they reported harassment to police.

“It’s killing us. The double-standards is killing us when we as Muslims are unjustifiably targetted and associated with terrorism. So it’s almost like we are the terrorists, and we don’t have a right to complain when we are being targetted,” Alolo said.

El-Saka said she’d like to see things change instead of empty promises from government.

“It’s just a constant of the same thing happening again,” she said. “I am afraid that we come out again to another vigil.”