Neighbours are rallying around a family of Syrian refugees who woke up to find hateful graffiti scrawled on a fence outside their North End home earlier this week.
Mannan Hamrasho told CBC News he and his family found the graffiti—including the phrases "Go back to your country" and "Leave Canada"—written in red ink on their fence Tuesday morning.
The newcomer from Syria, who can't speak English, spent Wednesday afternoon scraping the graffiti off of the fence around his Dufferin Avenue home and later received a visit from James Favel, executive director of Bear Clan Patrol Inc., who lives just around the corner.
Favel says he wanted to make sure the family knows the hateful words don't reflect how the community feels about newcomers.
"I wanted to let them know that they were supported here and that nobody wants them gone," said Favel. "The small-minded person who did that ugly writing on their fence is not representative of the community at large and I wanted them to know that they're supported."
Favel said he took along granola bars and some books for the kids and gave the family his business card so they can reach out if there's anymore trouble.
While there was a language barrier between Favel and the family for the first visit, Favel says he plans on going back in the coming days with an interpreter to find out what else members of the Bear Clan Patrol and others in the neighbourhood to help them settle in and feel more a part of the community.
In the meantime Favel said Bear Clan Patrol members will be keeping an extra close watch on the area around the home to help make sure the family has no more issues.
"I don't want them to feel like they have to leave our community to be safe—I want them to know that they can be safe here," he said. "We're about diversity here in this community—we're about overcoming stereotypical racism and I'd hate to see it revisited on anyone."
'For us it's become, here we go again'
Shahina Siddiqui, president of the Islamic Social Services Association, says it's important for neighbours and community groups like the Bear Clan to come forward after incidents like this to show support for the victims and let the family knows the behaviour isn't tolerated.
"We as a community have to come out in support of them," said Siddiqui, who hasn't met the family yet but has been told they are traumatized by the graffiti. "We are hoping the organizations that have offered to come forward to help… give them that kind of support to know that all Canadians are not like this—it's not acceptable, it's not normal.
"The whole point is that this is not just a Muslim community issue.. It's our issue. This is our city and we have to claim it back and we have to say this is unacceptable."
Unfortunately Siddiqui says she was not surprised to hear about the graffiti. She said for every incident that is reported in the media, there are even more victims whose stories and experiences are never told.
"For us it's become, here we go again," said Siddiqui. "This is not an isolated case. We know of these kinds of hate incidents are going up in numbers not only in Manitoba but across the country.
"This is just the tip of the iceberg."