Article from Alliance for Healthier Communities
Published: Wednesday, June 9, 2021
We express our sadness, grief and solidarity with the Muslim communities of London, Ontario, and Canada after the white supremacist, Islamophobic-fueled killing of a four family members and the serious injuring of another in London on the evening of June 6. We remember and we grieve Salman Afzaal, Madiha Afzaal, Yumna Afzaal, and Salman's mother. We hold young Fayaz Afzaal in our thoughts and hearts as he is treated for serious injuries from this attack.
This is a moment of great sorrow and fear for this family, for the wider Muslim community, and for all those who have experienced and continue to experience hate and threats of violence due to racism. It’s also a moment of collective anger, and of intolerance to the actions and inactions that have led us to this moment. We do not see this as a moment for “disbelief” or “shock” – for those who do, we would say: It’s past the time to wake up to the reality that this country, this province, and the communities around you, are rooted in histories of white supremacy, slavery, and genocide. It’s past time to wake up to the violence, hatred, intolerance of Islamophobia, of anti-Black racism, anti-Indigenous racism and colonialism, and all other forms of intolerance that we continue to see every day in Canada’s systems, culture, rhetoric, and inaction at all levels of governments, from the police, in our streets, regularly. Now is the time to face hard facts about the history and the present, and take actions that can change the future. Step one is for people with privilege and power everywhere in Canada to recognize and agree on the basic facts of racism in Canada.
Frustration and anger abound in a time like this. Anger can and needs to be expressed alongside grief. Ultimately, meeting hate with hate will not get us to a place of healing. We must find ways to turn anger into resolve, and resolve into action for sustainable and real change – in policies, in systems and in attitudes and cultures across our society. All of this is imperative to our individual and collective health and wellbeing.
As Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, professor of Global Health at the University of Toronto, points out in this essay published just days ago(link is external): “Hatred can be conceptualized as an infectious disease, a determinant of health and a public health issue spreading violence, fear and ignorance. Hatred is contagious and crosses barriers and borders, and no one is immune to its risks” and “Hatred is a public health issue because it often engenders widespread physical, psychological or political violence.” Dr. Abuelaish goes on to lay out that we must “recognize hatred as a public health issue in order to move from the management of hatred to the active prevention of its root causes through promotion, education and awareness.”
The Alliance and its members could not agree more strongly. We will, alongside our allies and partners, continue to call for:
- racism to be addressed as a public health crisis and work towards those approaches ourselves;
- violence in communities to be addressed with public health approaches and by resourcing communities;
- harms related to policing to be addressed by reallocating funds to resource communities to create safer, healthier environments for all.
There are no words adequate to express the grief we feel in this moment for the Afzaal family and their loved ones. But to simply say “This isn’t what Canada is about” or “These are the actions of extremists” or to otherwise excuse or explain away the toxic environments this hate is fueled and spread by is to invite the next instance of violence and grief. To honour this family’s memory, we must do better, we must take specific actions to address racism and not rest on a few days of soundbites. We must change the future by acting today and in the days, weeks, months and years ahead.