Oshawa city council is supporting the Muslim community after the mass shootings that terrorized Christchurch, New Zealand.
A gunman, inspired by white supremacism, killed 50 people and injured 50 others March 15, by shooting Muslims who were praying at two mosques.
Brian Nicholson addressed the shootings at the start of March 18 city council meeting.
He says he was “sickened” when he first heard about the attack.
“It’s really hard [to hear] when some people go to pray and they’re killed simply because they went to pray,” he says. “There’s no place in society for this kind of hate.”
Coun. Nicholson says members of city council have personally expressed their support to Oshawa mosques.
However, he says extremism has spread to Canada and protests against Islam are visible in the city.
“We have had people in our community here in Oshawa in the last week [who] have marched with yellow vests on,” Nicholson says. “[They’re] speaking against Muslims and [are] speaking in favour of Islamophobia in our own city.”
No active threats have been made against local mosques but Nicholson says those holding signs and sharing messages of hate are implying threats.
“It makes our neighbours feel uncomfortable,” he says. “I want people to think this is a welcoming community, we treat everybody as equals and we’re all brothers and sisters. For those filled with hate, get some help.”
Siraj Patel, the director of the Islamic Centre of Oshawa, says Durham Regional Police Services [DRPS] have been working closely together with mosques in the area. Patel says there has been a “larger police presence” since the Christchurch attack.
“We have received flowers, cards and messages of support,” he says.
Patel says two ways Muslims are responding to the attacks are through prayer and communication.
Patel wants people to focus on “human contact and human connection” rather than division. He says his community, alongside other marginalized groups, is saddened but are not surprised when “misinformed” individuals attack.
Patel says Muslims are showing resiliency through “love, tolerance and co-existence.”
Similarly to mosques, Nicholson says city council’s security budget has increased.
“[It used to be] about a couple hundred thousand dollars a year to [now] well over a million and a half dollars in the last five years,” he says. “We’re looking at millions of dollars of taxpayers money being spent just to keep people coming to our civic building safe.”
Nicholson says the increase in mass shootings, especially in the United States, is unacceptable.
“We’re tired of seeing kindergarteners in Long Island being shot,” he says. “It’s getting to the point where people that are crazy out there are getting control of weapons and are going and murdering people. We cannot be giving [those people] guns.”
Regional and city councillor Rick Kerr agrees and says violence is not the answer in any situation.
“We are an inclusive and diverse community and we value everybody in our community equally,” he says. “It’s always distressing when you hear in another community how one faction of society reacts violently to another. [It] was a reprehensible act.”
Nicholson says freedom of speech is important but there is no place for hate.
“We’ve seen it across wide sectors,” he says. “We saw it in the past on women, we saw it in the past on the elderly and we’re seeing it on people of different genders or different sexual orientations. We are one society with a lot of different partners and no one is better than the other. Those people who think they want to divide us are mistaken.”