A former Progressive Conservative candidate in the riding of London West is calling out the city, and himself, for not doing enough to stamp out the racism that police believe fueled a deadly vehicle attack on Sunday.
The attack, which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau labelled “terrorism” killed four members of a Muslim family and left the lone survivor — a 9-year-old boy — in hospital with serious injuries.
The family was out for their regular Sunday walk when police say Nathaniel Veltman, 20, of London, intentionally targeted them because of their Muslim faith.
Veltman is facing four counts of first-degree murder and one of attempted murder.
The attack led to a soul-searching Facebook post by Jeff Bennett, who ran for the PCs in London West in 2014.
In the post, Bennett, who is white, described how he brushed off casual racism when on the campaign trail, saying he didn’t object when many voiced their support for him simply because his name “was English and my skin was white.”
“The PC Party candidate in the election prior to me had been my friend Ali Chahbar,” he explained. “He had lost narrowly in a by-election only a year earlier … I had volunteers on my campaign who told me they were happy to be able to contribute again. They ‘had tried to volunteer a year earlier but the campaign office felt like the Middle East.’ “
“I should have asked them to leave,” Bennet wrote, regretfully. “I did not.”
“Now I see people expressing shock that a racist terrorist would drive his truck into the pathway of a Muslim family going for a walk. ‘London is better than this’ they say. ‘I can’t believe this happened here.’ Bullshit. I knocked on thousands of doors in the very neighbourhood this atrocity occurred. This terrorist may have been alone in that truck on that day, but he was not acting alone. He was raised in a racist city that pretends it isn’t.”
Bennett also called out the obligatory platitudes as insufficient and hollow.
“It’s not enough to fly flags at half mast and for politicians to send thoughts and prayers. We must take stock of the part we play.”
“I’m upset I have not done more to combat it. I’m partially to blame. I’ve come face to face with anti-Muslim attitudes in London, Ontario and said ‘thank you for your support’. I’m so very sorry. I promise to do better.”