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Whatever happened to the Our London Family Act in wake of Afzaal family attack?

Nearly three years after members of a London, Ont., Muslim family were murdered in a hate-motivated attack that shocked the country, a national Muslim organization is calling for the anti-hate bill named in their honour to be revived in the Ontario Legislature.

It comes days after news emerged that the 23-year-old found guilty of murder and attempted murder in the June 6, 2021, attack, in what a judge ruled was a terrorist act, plans an appeal of his conviction.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) says the Our London Family Act, which it helped to draft, needs to be passed “now more than ever” as the organization records a surge in Islamophobic incidents.

“When we have an act with provisions here that … can actually make families safer, our community safer, it’s time that we get that passed as soon as possible,” said Omar Khamissa, NCCM’s chief operating officer.

Tabled at Queen’s Park eight months after the attack on the Afzaal family, the private member’s bill from then Toronto MPP Faisal Hassan sought to address Islamophobia in the province and prevent future attacks.

WATCH | Reaction to Ontario judge’s ruling that 2021 attack was terrorism:

Afzaal family’s murder ‘textbook’ terrorism, judge rules

2 months ago

Duration 2:21

A judge in London, Ont., ruled the actions of the man who ran down a Muslim family with his truck in 2021, killing four people, were a ‘textbook example of terrorist motive and intent.’ Nathaniel Veltman was already sentenced to life in prison for murdering four members of the Afzaal family.

Co-sponsored by London’s three New Democrat MPPs, the Our London Family Act came out of the upswell of support for the Muslim community in the wake of the attack and widespread calls for action against Islamophobia.

But just over two months after it was introduced, the bill died on the order paper when the 2022 provincial election was called that May, having been referred to a standing committee by Paul Calandra, the government house leader.

More than two years later, the bill has yet to be retabled.

London Morning7:00Afzaal family killing deemed terrorism

After many months of hearings a London judge has ruled the killing of the Afzaal family was an act of terrorism. CBC reporter Kate Dubinski was in the courtroom and joined London Morning with more about the sentence and fall-out. 

“We have expressed our disappointment with the way that things unfolded, because this is something that is of great significance for our community,” said Imam Abd Alfatah Twakkal, chair of the London Council of Imams (LCI).

Yumnah Afzaal, 15, and her parents — Madiha Salman, 44, and Salman Afzaal, 46 — as well as family matriarch Talat Afzaal, 74, were killed in the attack. A nine-year-old boy was injured and orphaned.

Twakkal said the Muslim community was disappointed the bill did not pass and nothing has been tabled since. However, he believes there could be a piecemeal approach.

The bill sought to, among other things, establish a provincial review of hate crimes and hate-motivated incidents, designate safe zones around houses of worship, prevent white supremacist groups from registering as societies and present tools for schools to fight racism.

“Although that piece of legislation was not adopted in its entirety, there were several pieces to that legislation, so it’s important we continue to pursue whatever aspects of it that can be legislated,” Twakkal said.

Nawaz Tahir, a board member of the London-based Muslim advocacy group Hikma, said the Muslim community had put forward what they believed is a detailed plan to fight Islamophobia — a plan that would honour the family and be a “non-partisan no-brainer.”

“We remain hopeful that the government will move forward with this legislation but are disappointed that it has taken this long,” Tahir said in a statement.

NCCM ‘100%’ wants bill reintroduced

The province has made moves to fight Islamophobia, including offering grants for communities impacted by hate incidents, but the level and pace has not been enough, Khamissa said.

NCCM “100 per cent” wanted to see the bill come back, and has been pushing both the government and opposition to do that, he said, noting current legislation doesn’t reflect most of what the bill sought.

London West MPP Peggy Sattler told CBC News on Wednesday that she and the bill’s other sponsors were “fully committed” to moving it forward in partnership with the community, “when we understand that’s the direction that the community feels we need to go in.”

“What we’ve been hearing back is that they want to give the government a chance… to take leadership on this. But I think the patience is wearing thin,” she said.

Mainstreet NS15:20Hate is on the rise. How much blame can we place on social media?

Hate and violent rhetoric is on the rise in Canada and while social media algorithms can take some of the blame, what is it about us that has us taking the bait? Theologian David Deane joins host Jeff Douglas to talk about what it is about angry and hateful online content that “clicks” with a lot of people.

Locally, Twakkal said, the City of London had “put in a lot of efforts” to address Islamophobia and maintained community contact to ensure their actions follow the wishes of the Afzaal family.

In 2022, council endorsed an anti-Islamophobia action plan and announced Ahmer Khan as the city’s first Muslim community liaison officer. A memorial plaza was also built where the attack happened and June 6 was proclaimed a Day of Remembrance of Our London Family.

“Have things gotten better? I mean, we have seen an outpouring of support and we can’t forget about that,” Twakkal said.

“But there still is a significant number of people that don’t understand who we are and what Islam is, and they’ll continue to say things out of ignorance or arrogance and hatred, and that’s really where the focus should be on.”

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