Like many Toronto residents, Kelly Boaz said she "naively assumed" the backlash against Muslims, seen elsewhere in the wake of Friday's deadly attack in Paris, wouldn't occur in Toronto.
But to date, at least four suspected anti-Muslim incidents, including an assault, have been reported:
- Two Muslim women were accosted and verbally harassed Wednesday night on a train at Sherbourne station.
- Metrolinx discovered anti-Muslim graffiti Wednesday night on one of its trains.
- A Muslim mother was assaulted and robbed Monday afternoon by two men at a North York school.
- A Muslim U of T student says he was spat on and insulted on the weekend.
"When I heard about the attack at the school in Toronto, my heart sank," said Boaz.
Boaz is among the dozens of Toronto transit riders who are offering to accompany Muslim riders by using the hashtag #IllRideWithYou.
Hey students, I go from lakeshore to St George campus most days. If you'd like a woman to commute with, #illridewithyou— @nebulousy
The hashtag originated in the aftermath of the 16-hour standoff in Sydney in December 2014, in which a gunman burst into a café, taking 17 people hostage. Two people were killed along with the gunman.
'When I heard about the attack at the school in Toronto, my heart sank.' — Kelly Boaz
Hostility and animosity toward Muslims grew in Australia, but were countered by offers to accompany those feeling unsafe or uncomfortable traveling alone.
"When I heard about the subway attacks, I remembered the #IllRideWithYou campaign," Boaz said.
Boaz said she wanted to, like dozens tweeting the sentiment, rekindle that movement in Toronto, though she was saddened by the need.
"As a woman, I often feel vulnerable when walking or riding public transit," Boaz said. But she said she recognizes "how much privilege I have, just by the accident of birth that gave me a white face."
"I can hopefully extend that privilege," she said.
muslim friends, feeling unsafe? i ride downtown to uptown and back everyday #illridewithyou— @DevonKlaas
I'll be on the Lakeshore West going West Saturday morning. Need a safety buddy? #illridewithyou— @EllaCatticus
Another hashtag, #StandWithMuslimsTO, trended Thursday evening, with dozens of tweets condemning the recent attacks and urging Toronto residents to not stand by idly.
#StandWithMuslimsTO If you believe that xenophobia and racism don't belong in our city, in our neighbourhoods and in our workplaces.— @jkozuch
Toronto is a city of diversity and acceptance, not bigotry and hate. Stand in solidarity for our Muslim Community. #StandWithMuslimsTO— @ObliviateHate28
"To me, Canada is a place where there's a higher standard of behaviour; somewhere we stick together and protect each other," Boaz said.
"I want us to live up to that."