PEI

Évangéline assault 'creates a culture of fear,' says BIPOC USHR executive director

The head of an advocacy group of P.E.I. says microaggressions and racist comments are sadly somewhat common in the province, but physical attacks are more rare.

Incident after Acadian festival dance has been described as a racially motivated attack

The attack on Sept. 3 was likely part of a cycle of racism and hatred, says Sobia Ali-Faisal, the executive director of BIPOC USHR. (Tony Davis/CBC)

The executive director of an advocacy group for the BIPOC community on P.E.I. says she was taken aback after hearing about an assault in P.E.I.'s Évangéline region that has been characterized as a racially motivated attack.

BIPOC USHR executive director Sobia Ali-Faisal says microaggressions and racist comments are common on the Island, but physical assaults are more rare.

"I was actually surprised this time. Oftentimes I say I'm not, but this time — just because it was physical violence," she said.

"It says they're really invested in their hate. They're trying to put a message across that they really don't want you there, that they don't trust you, and it creates a culture of fear."

In the early morning hours of Sept. 3, after a dance sponsored by the Agricultural Exhibition and Acadian Festival, RCMP responded to reports of an assault in the parking lot of the community centre in Abram-Village.

Local groups say the victims were immigrants from Algeria, and have called the attack was racially motivated. Ali-Faisal calls the assault a case of Islamophobia.

Four people have been arrested in connection with the incident over the last 10 days.

No one has been charged so far, and the RCMP says it's too early to comment on motivation.

'Actions like this are never isolated'

One of the victims is reported to have already moved away from the Évangéline region. 

Ali-Faisal says rural areas can be particularly problematic for newcomers to the Island because it's even harder to form communities with people of similar racial and religious backgrounds.

But she says BIPOC USHR hears reports of racism from all across the province.

"This isn't just for western P.E.I. Actions like this are never isolated," said Ali-Faial.

"These men who did this, the perpetrators, they're not evil. They've just been raised in a society that has a lot of Islamophobia and racism."

Ali-Faisal says education is key to ending the cycle. Politicians and leaders from all sectors of society need to get involved — not just in schools but in the workplace, too.

"It's not just about: 'Don't think this, don't say this.' It's really: 'Where is all this coming from?" she said.

Everyone has some problematic beliefs, Ali-Faisal said, and Islanders need to create the space for people to acknowledge that, and challenge those beliefs within themselves.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kevin Yarr is the early morning web journalist at CBC P.E.I. Kevin has a specialty in data journalism, and how statistics relate to the changing lives of Islanders. He has a BSc and a BA from Dalhousie University, and studied journalism at Holland College in Charlottetown. You can reach him at kevin.yarr@cbc.ca.

With files from Island Morning

now