A Calgary woman who came to visit her family in Manitoba this summer says she was shocked by the racist verbal attack she endured when she asked a stranger for directions.

In an exchange captured on video, a man who described himself as a "Nazi" told Calgary teacher Kaniz Fatima to take her "head towel off" because it "supports Muslims." He also told her to "go back to your country."

"His comments actually shocked me a lot and then I was scared too," she said.

Fatima was in Manitoba to visit family in early July. She and her family were driving about 100 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, when they got lost. 

Kaniz Fatima

Kaniz Fatima said she felt a responsibility to confront a man who hurled racist and Islamophobic insults at her after she stopped to ask for directions. (Kaniz Fatima/Facebook)

Fatima said when she stopped in a parking lot to ask a stranger for directions, he called her a "parasite" and hurled racist insults at her. A witness later identified to CBC the area as near Seven Sisters Dam.

Fatima posted a video her husband took of part of the encounter on social media this week.

"You are being racist," Fatima can be heard telling the man in the video.

"I'm a f--king Nazi," the man can be heard replying in the video. "Do you know what a Nazi is?"

He then goes on to demand that Fatima remove her head covering.

"This is my hijab. Why should I take it off?" Fatima can be heard replying in the video.

Two women passing by can then be heard confronting the man.

Fatima says she and her family eventually got in their car and drove away.

'Doesn't represent Canada'

"I felt a responsibility to talk against racism, to stand up against Islamophobia," Fatima told CBC News in an interview Wednesday.

"I felt like I need to uphold my Canadian values and stand up for inclusion and justice because this is our country and we belong to this country."

She praised the passersby who stopped to defend her.

"This man doesn't represent Canada. The other two ladies who stood up for us, they truly represent Canada," she said.

Fatima, who came to Canada from Bangladesh in 2009, said she's never experienced anything like the racist attack before.

Even so, she said she has heard of similar encounters and feels people are currently more open about expressing racist views than they have been in recent history.

The political situation in the United States may be partly to blame, she said.

Helmut-Harry Loewen is a hate crime expert and member of an anti-fascist activist group in Winnipeg called Fascist Free Treaty One.

Speaking to CBC News last week, he said white supremacist groups are very much present in Manitoba and organizing, and attempts at recruiting within these groups are on the rise.

"Some have referred to it as the Trump effect, and we certainly saw that in Winnipeg just within days after Trump's election," he said.

"Posters went up downtown from various organizations. Some of them were posted on campus at the University of Manitoba promoting a kind of white students' union. All of this happened in the wake of Trump."

But Canada has its own problems with racism. The number of police-reported hate crimes against Muslims jumped by 60 per cent in 2015 compared to the previous year, according to Statistics Canada.

Data released in June of this year showed there were 159 anti-Muslim incidents reported to police in 2015, up from 99 the year before.

On Thursday, Fatima's husband, Mohammad Alam, said the couple have filed a report with the Calgary Police Service, who told them the report will be referred to police in Manitoba.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story stated the encounter happened in the Manitoba town of Pinawa. In fact, the encounter happened outside of the town in a parking lot near Seven Sisters Dam, according to a witness who spoke to CBC on Thursday.
    Aug 24, 2017 10:21 AM CT