Mississauga mosque community calls for faster government response after attack
Both province and federal government need to speed up and improve supports, imam says
It has been almost a month since worshippers at a mosque in Mississauga, Ont., were attacked with bear spray in what authorities believe was a "hate-motivated incident" — and fear still resonates inside the building's walls.
Its doors are now locked as soon as prayers begin, when they used to stay open for anyone arriving late. Congregants are describing nightmares, alongside feelings of fear and violation, Imam Ibrahim Hindy told reporters at a news conference at the Dar Al-Tawheed Islamic Centre Thursday.
"It's been a few weeks, and they're still struggling," he said.
Compounding those struggles, Hindy said, is the slow speed of government support — at a provincial level through the proposed Our London Family Act, and federally through Public Safety Canada's Security Infrastructure Program.
The provincial act includes several measures to combat racism and discrimination in the wake of a fatal truck attack on a Muslim family in London, Ont., in 2021, while the federal program provides funds for security equipment and hardware upgrades to help communities hit by hate crimes.
The provincial bill was introduced in the legislature earlier this year and passed first reading, but has since stalled at the standing committee.
Paul Calandra, the government house leader, said in the legislature Thursday that the bill would not pass before the provincial election is called next month.
"It is our belief that the bill needs more work in order to strengthen it," he said during question period.
In a statement to CBC News, a spokesperson for Public Safety Canada said Public Safety Minister Marco Mendocino visited Dar Al-Tawheed the day after the attack last month, and spoke with mosque leaders and members about possible changes to the program, agreeing to work together to improve it.
The minister's mandate letter includes "specific instructions" to explore "potential adjustments to the Security Infrastructure Program to enhance effectiveness and to be more responsive to community needs," the statement from Magali Deussing said.
The department is currently reviewing recommendations out of sessions with Jewish and Muslim stakeholders held in last fall and looking at next steps, Deussing added.
For Hindy, though, the changes can't come soon enough.
"We can't imagine waiting for another incident before meaningful change happens. We had the London family attack that took place that was horrific, and that act still has not passed, which makes people feel like there just isn't enough action being done on Islamophobia," Hindy said.
"There are security upgrades we need to make to this building for the people who have experienced trauma here to feel more content in this place that belongs to them."
Hindy said the mosque will have to "wait months to be able to do anything meaningful" due to the way the federal security infrastructure grants are designed.
"So we kind of feel left alone and we also feel like not enough is being done on this file across different ... levels of government."
Police investigating attack as 'hate-motivated incident'
Stemming from the attack at the mosque on March 19, Mohammad Moiz Omar, 24, was charged with:
- Assault with a weapon.
- Administering a noxious substance with intent to endanger life or cause bodily harm.
- Possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose.
- Uttering a threat to cause death or bodily harm.
- Carrying a concealed weapon and mischief to religious property.
Police allege he walked into the building near McAdam Road and Matheson Boulevard East early that day and discharged bear spray toward people while brandishing a hatchet.
Some members of the mosque tackled and subdued him until police arrived. In a news release, police said it is "believed to be a hate-motivated incident."
Fatema Abdalla, spokesperson for the National Council of Canadian Muslims, said at this point it should be evident that Islamophobic sentiment is growing in Canada, citing examples like the Quebec City mosque shooting in 2017 and the stabbing death of a volunteer caretaker outside a Toronto mosque in 2020.
"We are tired of organizing press conferences where repeatedly we ask for basic protection, and we are tired of organizing funerals for families who lose their loved ones to hate," Abdalla said.
"Let's not drag our feet. It's too late for that."
With files from The Canadian Press