Particularly during the pandemic, an evening walk has become part of my routine. When the day’s work is done, my husband and I, and often my sons, will set out for a walk through the neighbourhood. It’s an opportunity to get out of the house, to get some fresh air, and to sometimes connect in a distanced way with our neighbours.
So news of the act of terror in London, Ontario hits close to home for me on my levels. As a mother. As a Muslim. As a Canadian of Pakistani heritage. As someone who enjoys an evening walk.
Because on Sunday, a family just like mine, just like so many others in Canada, was out for a walk in London. Only they never made it home, because a man driving a pickup truck committed a hateful act of terror.
According to the police, there is evidence that this was a planned, premeditated act and that the family was targeted because of their Muslim faith.
And now, four members of that family are dead. A nine-year old boy is the only survivor, hospitalized and facing a future without his parents.
We are reminded again that hatred exists in Canada. That Islamophobia exists in Canada. That terrorism exists in Canada. We are reminded that, for all the progress we have made, the progress we continue to make, that this is still part of our society too. We can’t turn our heads away. We cannot pretend otherwise.
Ask any member of a racialized community in Canada. They will tell you about the microaggressions, about the not always whispered words, about the looks in the grocery store. Look at the social media mentions of any prominent racialized person in Canada. Hatred doesn’t just exist online. We have seen again and again. But it thrives there. It feels accepted there.
I find myself both wanting more to be done and asking myself, what more can we do? What more we can say? How do we not fall into a rote repetition of the same points every time another horrific act like this occurs.
Yes, we grieve and pray for the victims. And especially for this little boy. Yes, we condemn this act of terror. Yes, we say that hatred and intolerance and Islamophobia and any kind of discrimination have no place in Canada. Yes, we demand justice. We demand change. We demand better, of ourselves and of each other.
But unfortunately, there are no easy answers. Hatred is learned, but it can also be unlearned. No one is born with hatred in their hearts. So I also pray for strength. For charity. For the capacity to keep seeking to bring the people of our communities together. To see past our differences to the so many things we all have in common.
To keep breaking down the walls that divide us. Because walls that we have erected are also walls that we can tear down.
And I pray for the strength to keep on walking every evening, gripping my boys’ hands just a little tighter.