Assault charge laid in racist road rage incident in Costco parking lot

London police have laid an assault charge after a road rage incident that included racist language in a Costco parking lot over the weekend.

A man became enraged and tried to pull a 75-year-old man from a car before making racist comments

The courthouse in London, Ont. (Andrew Lupton)

London police have laid an assault charge after a road rage incident that included racist language in a Costco parking lot over the weekend. 

"This is definitely good news. It's emotional," said Rubina Tahir, who was in the car with her husband and 75-year-old dad on Sunday when the incident happened. 

"I'm grateful that the person who created this mess is being held accountable and my family wants to thank everyone involved for doing the right thing in this situation." 

Publicity surrounding the incident has seen others come forward with their own tales of racism and some officers' slow reaction, she added. 

"I never thought I would have to comment on a situation like this. I feel comfortable using my voice and I'm glad we've been given an opportunity to bring light to this story. With the support of others, remaining quiet was never an option." 

Tahir and her family members were in the south London Costco on Wellington Road, waiting for a parking spot, when they inadvertently blocked in another driver. The driver started honking, then became enraged and got out of his car, she said. He came over to their car and tried to pull off their windshield wiper before banging on the passenger-side window and eventually opening the door, she said.

He then allegedly grabbed the mask off Tahir's 75-year-old father and tried to grab him. 

Bystanders and Costco employees intervened and told the man the family had every right to be in the parking lot after he told the family to go back to their country. 

"I have received a lot of messages from people I went to high school with, people I went to Western with, or even people in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where I live now, and the theme is that people are not really surprised that this happened," Tahir said. "It's upsetting to hear that people are not surprised. It makes me think that we have to keep talking about it, keep having these uncomfortable conversations." 

Police response questioned

Tahir's brother, Nawaz Tahir, is a London lawyer and advocate in the Muslim community. Tahir said they both want to send a message to people to speak up when they encounter racism and injustice. 

The family was told by officers at the scene that charges would not be laid because their father got out of the car at one point with his fists raised. Nawaz Tahir told CBC News he's doubtful charges would have been laid if it hadn't been for the story being picked up on social media and by media outlets. 

The family's story was widely shared and garnered denunciations from politicians, including NDP MPP Peggy Sattler, Liberal MP Peter Fragiskatos and London Mayor Ed Holder, who called the incident "disgusting." 

"I'm obviously pleased that the justice system took this seriously and the wheels are in motion to have this person held accountable for what he did," Nawaz Tahir said. "I've also heard from others who have similar stories, but their stories ended with no further action. That saddens me and makes me realize that we have a lot of advocacy work to do. There are people out there who don't have a social media presence and don't have an advocate in their corner. 

Hate crimes are massively underreported in Canada but individual stories hit close to home, Nawaz Tahir said. 

"When you hear the individual stories coming from people, it just takes it to a different level as to the impact that these kinds of incidents can have on people, in particular the psychological well-being of people when these incidents happen but the justice system closes the door on that psychological impact." 

London police have confirmed they have laid a charge but have not yet released details about the individual charged. 

What is a hate crime in Canada?

2 years ago
Duration 3:56
There's no such thing as a 'hate crime' listed in Canada's Criminal Code, which makes those under-reported crimes that much harder to pursue in court.