Via Rail revisiting inclusion policies after Muslim man told not to pray at Ottawa station
Via Rail says it is working to improve its diversity and inclusion policies after a Muslim man was told not to pray at the Ottawa train station.
Via Rail and the National Council of Canadian Muslims, a civil rights and advocacy group, issued a joint statement saying they met on Wednesday to discuss the “regrettable and saddening incident.”
The groups “engaged in a constructive dialogue following the regrettable and saddening incident involving a man who was praying in VIA Rail’s Ottawa Station,” the statement said.
“The conversation focused on common objectives, namely, to ensure that VIA Rail provides an inclusive environment where passengers and employees feel safe practising freedom of religion, including the ability to worship.”
The man, Ahmed, told CTV News that after praying in an empty hallway at the train station on Monday, he returned to sit down when a security guard approached him and told him he was not allowed to pray there.
“Don’t pray in here. We don’t want you praying here. You’re bothering our other customers, OK?” the guard said in video of the incident that went viral. “Pray outside next time.”
Ahmed, who did not want his last name used, said the incident left him feeling shocked, hurt and disrespected.
“He made me feel embarrassed. I was just disgusted. Like: this is Canada? This is the nation’s capital? This is Ottawa?” he told CTV News.
Employee removed pending investigation
Via Rail said in the statement Thursday it would share its diversity and inclusion policies with the NCCM and work with the group on “any improvements that could be brought to help prevent these incidents in the future.”
They also reiterated their apology for the incident to the entire Muslim community and said they strongly condemn Islamophobia and any discriminatory behaviour.
Via Rail said the security guard in the video is not a Via employee, but they have asked that he be removed during the investigation.
“VIA Rail has asked our security subcontractor to remove him from any VIA Rail contracts pending the outcome of the investigation,” a spokesperson said.
The NCCM has been in contact with the man who was praying in the station.
“NCCM has also been in contact with the individual involved in the incident and is committed to working with all partners to ensure that together we build a Canada free from Islamophobia,” the statement said.
“VIA Rail is grateful to be able to count on the guidance and support of the National Council of Canadian Muslims to improve its passenger and employee experience and is looking forward to cultivating a fruitful collaboration with them.”
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