On Sunday June 6, Nathaniel Veltman purposefully jumped the curb and drove his vehicle into a Muslim family of five in London, Ontario. Tragically, four members of the family have died while the 9 year-old son remains in the hospital. This is the worst incident of racially motivated violence in Canada since the shooting at Quebec City Mosque in 2017. Such a barbaric act has shocked people across the country and ignited calls to end racial hatred. However, to do this, we must understand the roots of racism and its organic connections to capitalism.
Rise in hatred and violence
This incident is only the latest in a growing number of racist attacks and violence against Muslims. Last September, 58 year-old volunteer caretaker Mohamed-Aslim Zafis was stabbed to death outside a Rexdale mosque in Toronto. His killer also murdered a homeless man, Rampreet “Peter” Singh, under a nearby bridge. There have been multiple cases of assaults against Muslim women, including an attack on two women wearing hijabs in Edmonton last winter. The 2017 Quebec City Mosque shooter Alexandre Bissonnette killed six and injured eight, proclaimed refugees were “going to kill my family”. Since then, dozens of mosques across Canada have received threats and attacks. This is not the first violent Islamophobic crime in London. In 2016, there was the brutal physical assault of an Iranian student at Western University. The severity of the assault left the student concussed. At that time, the London Mayor stated the attack was a “wake up call” and yet, violence against Muslims has only escalated since. Clearly, urgent action must be taken but the question remains: who can the Muslim community rely upon for justice and safety?
Hypocrisy of the Liberals and Conservatives
In the wake of the attack, the leaders of all political parties have expressed shock. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called it an “act of evil” and stated “Islamophobia is real. Racism is real. You should not have to face hate in your communities, in your country. We can and we will act. We can and we will choose a better way.” Similarly, Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole said the attack was “vile and extreme hatred must be condemned.” Ontario Premier Doug Ford joined the chorus stating, “this type of racism and terrorism cannot and will not be tolerated.”
As emotional as their words might be right now, the actions of both the Conservatives and Liberals speak for themselves. Only a couple of weeks ago, in response to a massive peaceful rally in solidarity with Palestine, Doug Ford repeated the lies from an Islamophobic hate group about the rally goers inciting violence against the Jewish community. Nothing could be further from the truth as the Palestinian Youth Movement that organized the rally explicitly declared no tolerance for anti-Semitism and aimed their condemnation at the Israeli Zionist state. This did not prevent the media from distorting the story and, with the support of politicians like Ford, the Toronto Sun felt bold enough to publish a front page issue on the rally stating it was “aiding terrorist causes”. Last summer, during the growing wave of protests after George Floyd’s murder, Ford’s response was to say that Canada did not have a racism problem. Even after he was forced to backtrack and admit that “of course there’s systemic racism in Ontario” he dismissed calls to cut the police budget and went on to increase their budget during the pandemic.
The Liberal party is no less guilty of hypocrisy. Both these parties voted together to pass Bill C-51 that expanded the powers of Canadian police and intelligence agencies under the guise of “fighting terrorism”. The real purpose of CSIS has been to harass Muslims and environmental activists. It was the Liberals who launched an invasion of Afghanistan and worked with George W. Bush to carry out the “War on Terror” which unleashed a mass campaign of racist hysteria against Muslims. How can the Liberals be defenders of Muslims at home when they fund bloody wars of occupation across the Middle East?
Not only do these capitalist politicians tolerate racism and violence, they fan the flames. While they carry out “respectable” anti-Muslim policies and hysteria, the far-right takes these policies to their natural violent conclusion. The responsibility for the bloodshed in London rests not only on the shoulders of the killer himself but equally on those politicians and commentators who have been stirring up hatred and Islamophobia.
Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh went online to state that “this is our Canada, systemic racism exists and must be fought.” This is all true, but he offered nothing new from the Liberals and Conservatives. The NDP will never be able to offer a solution to end racist violence if it cannot explain what causes this violence in the first place.
Divide and rule
It is no coincidence that globally there has been a general rise of racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia while we are living through the worst crisis in capitalism’s history. During 2020, Canadian billionaires got $40 billion richer and the amount of money sitting idle in corporate bank accounts grew to $1.6 trillion. Meanwhile, millions of working class Canadians have been laid off, lost income or struggle to work with inadequate protections. COVID-19 exposed just how sick our health-care system is after decades of cuts. The government has been quick to give massive handouts to the rich while offering meager half-measures to the poor. This is a recipe for social unrest.
In this context, Conservatives and Liberals lean on racial prejudices to scapegoat the immigrant population as the cause of the scarcity in jobs and services. Racism leaves working class people blaming each other and keeps them divided against the common enemy of the capitalist class that exploits and oppresses them all. It is not the Muslims who are responsible for the destruction of our healthcare system, for the stagnation of our salaries and for the completely incompetent government response to the pandemic. We must denounce discrimination and racism and point to the real culprits of the problems in society—the capitalists and their system. This is the best way to cut across the divisions maintained by the capitalist parties and their media.
Solidarity can end racist violence
While the capitalists in government offer nothing but empty words and disguised attacks, there is a powerful social force that can provide a way out of this rotten system and end racist violence once and for all. On June 8, thousands of people from all backgrounds packed Oxford Street in London in a show of solidarity. We have regularly seen working class communities organize spontaneous demonstrations to drown out the far-right. In the past week alone, we have seen millions across Canada demanding justice for the genocide of Indigenous children. The crisis of capitalism has polarized society and even as some have moved to the far right, the vast majority of the working class have been radicalized to the left.
However, this majority is left unorganized by their labour leaders. Mass action must be coordinated by the NDP and trade unions to put the racists in their proper place. When the far right attempted to organize a “Unite the Right” rally in Boston in 2017, 40,000 people came out in protest and completely shut down the tiny rally of racists. This is the power of the multiracial working class.
A united struggle against racism would be intrinsically connected to the fight against unemployment, austerity, and capitalism. Through such a struggle, the artificial divisions between working-class people would be overcome and we could begin to uproot the material roots of racism. Until capitalism is defeated through mass struggle, barbaric attacks like the murder in London will continue to happen. The truth is that capitalism requires racism and oppression to exist. To truly end racist violence, we must fight for a new system, a struggle for socialism, where we can put the wealth in society towards our needs rather than towards profits and end the artificial scarcity that fuels racism.