Mother of Black man shot and killed in Kitchener receives racist messages, threats

The mother of Isaiah Macnab, who was shot and killed near downtown Kitchener in September 2018, says she received racist and threatening messages after she changed her Facebook profile photo to one of her son. She's speaking out to show people racism exists in Waterloo region.

'We need to start calling people out' over racist comments online, Kelly Macnab says

Kelly Macnab stands near the basketball court where her son, Isaiah, used to play with friends. She says she received racist and violent threats over social media after she used a photo of her son, Isaiah, as her profile photo. She says she's speaking out about the experience to highlight that racism exists in southern Ontario and people should do more to call it out. (Craig Norris/CBC)

Kelly Macnab sits near the basketball court near her Kitchener home where her son Isaiah used to spend hours playing with friends.

"We moved into this area when he was 10 years old and up until just about a week before he passed, he was playing basketball here every summer," she recalled as she sat down on Thursday for an interview with Craig Norris, host of CBC Kitchener-Waterloo's The Morning Edition.

Isaiah was 20 when he was shot and killed while sitting on a picnic bench near downtown Kitchener on Sept. 20, 2018. An autopsy determined he died from multiple gunshot wounds. Two people were seen fleeing the area in a white, four-door Mercedes. No one has ever been arrested in the case.

Macnab wanted to honour her son this past December and posted his image as her Facebook profile photo.

Soon after, she received a message from a man who appeared to mistake her for Isaiah. The man's message was threatening, called her a "goofy looking [N-word]" and he seemed upset she was friends with someone he knew. She told a few friends about it and those who knew the man explained who he had messaged.

She initially blocked him, but had to unblock him to take a screenshot of the comments for investigators in Isaiah's case. She was unable to reblock him right away and then she forgot to do it.

Then he messaged again. 

This time he appeared to know who he was talking to and threats of physical violence were made to her personally. 

"I woke up on a Saturday morning with my four-year-old beside me in bed and there were messages directed towards me," she said. 

"The very last one, actually, he sent me my address — my actual address. And so you know, in the fog of just waking up … my first thought was, he's on my front porch and my child and I are about to be killed."

A 31-year-old man from Niagara Falls has been charged with uttering threats to cause death. 

Kelly and Isaiah Macnab are seen in this family photo. (Submitted by Kelly MacNab)

'We have a responsibility'

Macnab, who is white, says she believes she never would have received messages like those if she hadn't used a photo of Isaiah, who was Black.

"The very first sentence of the very first message referenced a racial slur," she said.

She says her son used to tell her about his own experiences with racism; people using slurs like the N-word or micro aggressions toward him.

"We went through some things even in school, smaller things, but a lot of things that add up eventually," she said.

Macnab says she wants to speak out about the experience now because of what has been happening in the community — how the anger over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis has made its way north to Canada, to Waterloo region where people have marched against anti-Black racism.

She says she's shocked to see some people deny racism is a problem here. 

People tend to downplay comments when they're posted online, she said.

"We have a responsibility to, when we see things on social media, to not say, 'Oh well, they're just typing," she said. "We need to start calling people out."

Investigation into fatal shooting continues

The Waterloo Regional Police Service continues to investigate Isaiah Macnab's fatal shooting

"This remains a very active investigation and we continue to ask those who have information to come forward," police said in an emailed statement to CBC Kitchener-Waterloo. "We want to remind those who may be [hesitant] to come forward with information that they can do so anonymously through Crime Stoppers."

Police released this photo of a white four-door Mercedes, which fled the area of Pandora and King streets in Kitchener on Sept. 20, 2018 just after a fatal shooting at approximately 11:15 a.m. (@WRPSToday/Twitter)


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?