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

·2 min read
The attack was part of a cycle of racism and hatred, says Sobia Ali-Faisal, the executive director of BIPOC USHR. (Tony Davis/CBC - image credit)
The attack was part of a cycle of racism and hatred, says Sobia Ali-Faisal, the executive director of BIPOC USHR. (Tony Davis/CBC - image credit)

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 last weekend that has been characterized as a racially-motivated attack.

BIPOC USHR executive director Sobia Ali-Faisal says microggressions and racist comments are commonplace on the Island, but physical assaults aren't so common.

"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, following a dance sponsored by the Agricultural Exhibition and Acadian Festival, RCMP responded to reports of an assault in the parking lot outside the community centre in Abram-Village. Local groups say the victims were immigrants from Algeria, and the attack was racially motivated.

Ali-Faisal calls the assault a case of Islamophobia.

Four people have been arrested. No one has been charged, 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 Évangéline.

Al-Faisal says rural areas can be particularly problematic for newcomers to the Island because it's even harder to form communities with other 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 in 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.

We all have problematic beliefs, Ali-Faisal said, and we need to create the space for people to acknowledge that, and challenge those beliefs within themselves.