Ottawa

'We can't pretend it didn't happen': Ottawa family speaks out about racist graffiti

A family whose home was spray painted with a racial slur is calling on Ottawa police to do more to combat hate crimes.

Someone spray painted "N--gers, out!" on Archille Konga’s garage nearly 2 weeks ago

Archille Konga is calling on Ottawa police to do more to target hate crimes after his garage was spray painted with a racial slur. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

A family whose home was spray painted with a racial slur is calling on Ottawa police to do more to combat hate crimes.

Nearly two weeks ago, someone wrote "N--gers, out!" in black letters on the garage door of Archille Konga's Merganser Street home in the city's east end.

Konga's wife was woken up by a neighbour ringing their doorbell at 2 a.m. to point out the graffiti.

"It was very, very shocking. When she called [me], she couldn't believe what happened. She was really devastated," Konga told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning.

Konga had been out of town, and his wife was home with their three children between the ages of 10 and 16.

His immediate reaction was to cover the slur, hiding the writing out of shame.

It happened in Ottawa. In Canada.- Archille Konga

But a few hours later, Konga said, they reconsidered.

"We can't hide these. We can't pretend it didn't happen," he said. "It did happen, and it happened in Ottawa. In Canada."

Three officers came by their house later that Saturday morning, but Konga said he heard a few days later the investigation may have been put on hold a few days because there were no leads.

The home of Archille Konga's family on Merganser Street near the Aviation Parkway was recently the target of racist graffiti. (Supplied)

Wants dedicated police team

Two days after that, however, Konga said officers told him the investigation was still open. He now wants to know whether the file was ever closed in the first place.

He also wants a dedicated team of officers with specific training around hate crimes, and thinks more front-line officers should be patrolling neighbourhoods — something that may prevent further crimes.

"Police have to be ready to respond," he said. They have to have a team ready."

Archille Konga says the community came together after his family's home was targeted with racist graffiti. 0:42

At a press conference Thursday morning, the African Canadian Association called on Ottawa police to establish a proper hate crimes unit and for the City of Ottawa to put in place an anti-racism secretariat.

"We condemn what happened to this family and we're hoping that something will be done by the City of Ottawa and also the Ottawa Police Service," said John Adeyefa, the association's president.

Interim Ottawa police Chief Steve Bell told CBC News by phone Tuesday that the unit was "renamed or moved over to the security and intelligence" section in January 2017.

City Coun. Rawlson King said he has had racial slurs shouted at him as well. He said the black community in Ottawa deals with racism regularly.

Their home was vandalized with racist graffiti earlier this month and ever since their 10-year-old daughter has been afraid to leave the house. 10:43

"It is disappointing but it is something that we are unfortunately used to and I think that is wrong," he said.   

He said he supports the creation of both a secretariat and a hate crime unit.

"It has to be addressed in substantive ways and I think a secretariat does that and I think a hate unit does that," he said.

Conversation needs to continue

Konga said it was difficult making his children understand what happened and why his family was targeted. His youngest child was especially scared and confused, he said, not knowing if her friends would still like her.

He said he tried to assure her they wouldn't be targeted again.

Still, he wants the conversation around hate crimes to continue.

"It's a great opportunity for everyone to actually start that conversation in your family," he said. "I never thought this would happen to me."

After the racial slur, Konga said he's also questioning whether to stay in Canada where his children were born, or return to Cameroon.

"My dream was to raise my kids in this country."

With files from CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning