Manitoba’s Muslim community plans vigil Thursday for London attack victims

Autumn Crossman-Serb wonders what it will take to stop the kind of hate that is believed to have motivated an attack on a Muslim family that killed four people in London, Ont.

“I can talk till I’m blue in the face about how I’m a person, but if someone doesn’t believe I’m a person and there isn’t any incentive for them to believe that I’m a person, then they’re not going to change,” she said.

The 30-year-old woman — the daughter of a man from Libya and a Métis woman from Anola, Man. — says she has dealt with the ignorance of others regarding Muslims all her life.

“Between that, between pop culture, between this idea that we are coming in and just infiltrating basically the society or the system … [it’s] just fear turning into ignorance turning into hate,”  she said.

She said political leaders need to step up and combat hate speech online, which she believes influences the actions of people like the 20-year-old man charged with four counts of murder and one count of attempted murder, after driving a truck into the London family members.

The family — a mother and father, two children and their grandmother — were out for a walk on Monday when they were run over. 

Police are calling it a hate crime and are considering laying terrorism-related charges.

Manitoba’s Muslim community will hold a vigil to support each other Thursday at 8 p.m. at Winnipeg’s Grand Mosque on Waverley Street.

Tasneem Vali, vice-chair of the Manitoba Islamic Association, said the organization wanted to find a way to bring the community together to show support for the family.

“This was a family that … is completely wiped out,” she said. “And there’s a little boy who … once he is better, hopefully, he will have a lot to deal with,” she said.

Vali said the organization is still working out whether the vigil will be drive-in, drive-by, or live streamed.

“With the pandemic and the health restrictions, we can’t have congregational services,” she said. “It brings a sense of closure … when you have other people and you know you’re grieving together.”

The association has mental health professionals who volunteer and provide grief counselling services. People can email or call to book appointments.

Vali said the association wants to reach out to youth in the local Muslim community to offer them a chance to speak out.

“We would probably reach out first to the youth in the Muslim community, just with the girls who wear hijab. They are very visibly Muslim,” she said.

“This was a terror attack and they were targeted, this family, for being Muslim,” she said, so the association want to reach out to those “who fear going out … being visibly Muslim.”

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman issued a statement Monday afternoon to offer his condolences and acknowledge that Islamophobia continues to exist in Canada.

The Winnipeg sign at The Forks was dimmed as a show of support for the local Muslim community, as well as Muslim people across Canada, Bowman said on Twitter.

Members of the local Muslim community can access grief counselling through the Islamic Social Services Association by emailing and the Manitoba Islamic Assocation by emailing (preferred) or calling (204) 256-1347.