'Hatred has consequences': Immigration minister says online hate fuels racist attacks
Published Friday, March 15, 2019 7:42PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, March 16, 2019 1:56PM EDT
Warning: This story contains offensive language
Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen says hateful comments online feed a narrative that can lead to violent attacks such as Friday’s shooting at two New Zealand mosques.
The shooting left 49 dead.
Less than 24 hours later, some users on the Facebook page "Yellow Vests Canada" were writing comments calling for violence against Muslims and immigrants. In a series of comments posted under an article about migrants allegedly throwing rocks at a woman, members of the group threatened violence against the immigrants allegedly involved.
Under another article, which dealt with a Hamilton woman who joined ISIS, users threatened more violence against Muslims specifically.
"Hatred has consequences…even though those folks are not the ones who pulled the trigger, they feed into a narrative that leads to that kind of violence," said Hussen in reaction to the comments. “It’s the logical extension of that kind of hatred.”
Hussen went on to say that it’s essential to "call out" this hatred anytime it takes place.
"Fearmongering and pitting one group of people against another is simply wrong," he said.
It's a sentiment that was echoed by Boufeldja Benabdallah, the president of the centre where the 2017 Quebec mosque attack took place. Six people were killed in that shooting.
"You’re strangers in your own country," he said in an interview following the news of the New Zealand mosque attacks.
He called on the government to do more to tackle online hatred.
"There are tools out there that are being used by these people that are just fuelling the hated, and this is the problem," he added.
Hussen expresses disappointment at Scheer’s initial reaction
Multiple politicians spoke up to condemn the attacks throughout the day on Friday, including many cabinet ministers, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh. At the time this article was published, People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier had yet to tweet any condemnation of the attack.
One politician, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, came under fire when his initial tweet failed to mention that the attack took place against Muslims in a mosque.
A statement Scheer released three hours later condemned the shooting as a "hateful attack on the Muslim community."
When interviewed prior to Scheer's second statement's release, Hussen said he was unimpressed by the Tory leader’s initial reaction.
"I’m saddened that the leader of the opposition couldn’t bring himself to mention the community that he was talking about, or mention the place of worship by name," he said. "I was expecting a better standard of leadership from him and I’m disappointed that he didn’t meet the expectations of Canadians."
The immigration minister also slammed Scheer’s appearance at a "yellow vest"-associated protest called "United We Roll," where a convoy of oilsands workers and supporters walked on Parliament Hill to support pipeline construction and the oil industry. Some individuals who joined the protest espoused anti-immigrant views, including Faith Goldy, a public figure who has been widely denounced for white nationalist views.
"For the leader of the official opposition to share a stage with them and not call out her hatred and her fear mongering and her white supremacy is really, really disappointing," Hussen said.
Brock Harrison, a spokesperson for Andrew Scheer, took issue with Hussen’s statement. He said the minister was using the tragedy in New Zealand as an "opportunity to score political points."
"This is a day to show support and sympathy for the victims, their families, and the Muslim community around the world… Mr. Hussen should be ashamed for his politicization of this tragedy. He should have been able to put politics aside today," Harrison said.