Canada’s political leaders are once again condemning Islamophobia following the deadly Sunday evening hit and run in London, Ont. that police have described as a premeditated hate crime against a Muslim family.

Three adults and one teenager were killed in the incident, in which a pickup truck mounted a curb and struck the victims. A nine-year-old boy was also seriously injured but survived. 

The victims spanned three generations of a family.

“To the Muslim community in London and to Muslims across the country, know that we stand with you,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Twitter Monday afternoon.

“Islamophobia has no place in any of our communities.”

Other federal leaders extended their condolences to Canadian Muslims before denouncing hate crimes against the group.

“This type of vile and extreme hatred must be condemned. An Islamophobic act of terror like this has no place in Canada,” Conservative leader Erin O’Toole said, also on Twitter.

“This is an act of Islamophobia and terror,” NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said in a statement.

Nathaniel Veltman, 20, of London, is facing four counts of murder and one count of attempted murder in connection to the alleged attack. Police say terrorism charges against Veltman are also being considered.

Parliamentarians condemned Islamophobia in 2017

The widespread condemnation and identification of Islamophobia as a motivating factor comes a little more than four years after the House of Commons passed a controversial motion that sought to identify and root out hate against Muslims.

The private member’s motion, introduced by Mississauga-Erin Mills Liberal MP Iqra Khalid, called on the federal government to do three things:

  • Condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination.
  • Quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear.
  • Compel the Commons heritage committee to develop a government-wide approach for reducing or eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination, including Islamophobia.

The non-binding motion was dragged into a bitter debate in Ottawa before its eventual approval. Its most dogged critics said the proposal would limit freedom of expression and single out Muslims for special treatment under Canadian law.

Liberal MP Iqra Khalid introduced an anti-Islamophobia motion in 2017. A government committee issued 30 recommendations, some of them addressing Islamophobia, a year later. (Patrick Doyle/Canadian Press)

A Heritage committee report on systemic racism, religious discrimination and Islamophobia followed in 2018. 

The report concluded with 30 recommendations, including the creation of a coordinated national action plan, improved data collection on hate crimes and the development of new education and training programs.

“We see a lot of talk and not enough action or implementation,” Jennifer Mustapha, a political science professor at Huron University College in London, told CBC News.

“I feel like we really haven’t even gotten to the point where we are fully able to acknowledge the degree to which this is a systemic problem in Canadian society.”

‘This is a journey,’ says MP who led report on Islamophobia

Liberal MP Hedy Fry, who was chair of the committee when the report was written, said many of the recommendations are in the process of being implemented. 

Fry highlighted improved data collection and public education campaigns as the most critical recommendations. She said those efforts are ongoing and gaining momentum.

“You’re not going to stop systemic problems in five years,” Fry told CBC News in an interview. 

“This is a journey. But we need to get the pieces in order to start that journey and I think that our government has begun to do it.”

Mourners light candles at the makeshift memorial to the four people killed in London, Ont. on Sunday. (Carlos Osorio/Reuters)

Canada also launched an updated national anti-racism strategy in 2019, which lists Islamophobia as a form of discrimination. However, the strategy does not include specific measures to combat Islamophobia separate from other forms of racism or discrimination.

A renewed push to fight online hate speech 

In a later statement, Singh said the Liberal government should step up its fight against online hate speech to combat Islamophobia.

“The Trudeau government promised to tackle online hate and we are still waiting,” Singh said. “It is crucial that we immediately implement measures to tackle online hate, including regulations to make social media platforms remove hateful and violent content from their platforms.”

Trudeau pledged to crack down on online hate speech when he introduced a new digital charter in 2019.

The Liberals say the strategy builds on Canada’s commitment to the Christchurch Call to Action, a political pact with a goal of stopping online extremism. Canada signed on to the agreement following the Christchurch mosque massacre of 2019.

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