June 11, 2021

-Global News

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced a program Friday morning intended to protect vulnerable residents from hate crimes.

The Alberta Security Infrastructure Program will provide grants to religious and ethnic organizations that are at risk of being targeted by hate-inspired violence or vandalism. This includes places of worship, temples, synagogues, gurdwaras, community centres such as Indigenous friendship centres, ceremonial facilities and monuments.

“All Albertans must be able to live in a province where it is safe to practice their faith, to exercise their freedom of religion,” Premier Jason Kenney said at a news conference at the Al Rashid Mosque in Edmonton Friday morning.

“Albertans must feel safe to walk in their neighbourhood and not fear for their safety because of the colour of their skin.”

The funding can be used for things like security and technology improvements, as well as staff training, Kenney said.

“As we tragically witnessed this week, religious and ethnic minorities in Canada remain at risk of being targeted with hate-motivated crime,” Kenney said.

“These cowardly acts of bigotry have no place in our province. Alberta’s government stands shoulder to shoulder with these communities and is proud to deliver on our election commitment to help keep them safe.”

Grant applications will open in the fall. The province said a total of $500,000 will be available this year. Applicants will be eligible for up to $10,000 to assist with security assessments and training, as well as $90,000 for the purchase and installation of security infrastructure such as alarms, gates, motion detectors and security systems.

“Complex problems such as hate crimes and racism place an incredible burden on vulnerable Albertans,” Justice Minister Kaycee Madu said. “My goal as justice minister is to ensure to prevent them before they occur.

“The Alberta Security Infrastructure Program will empower these Albertans and their communities by providing additional layers of protection for those in need. Empowered communities are safe communities.”

Madu said $1 million will be available through the grant next year.

The announcement comes just days after a Muslim family of four was run over and killed by a vehicle in London, Ont., in what police say was a targeted attack because of their faith.

Salman Afzaal, 46, his 44-year-old wife, Madiha Salman, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Afzaal and Afzaal’s 74-year-old mother were killed after police say a pickup truck intentionally mounted the sidewalk and struck the family.

Nine-year-old Fayez Afzaal, the lone survivor, suffered serious injuries.

The accused Nathaniel Veltman made a brief virtual appearance in court Thursday to face four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.

“Some would think that acts of this kind of violence like this don’t happen in Canada, but last week’s mass murder in London was a terrible reminder of how many communities in Canada feel that their day-to-day security and safety cannot be taken for granted,” Kenney said.

Aumer Assaf, a spokesperson with the Canadian Islamic Centre, said the security grants are “absolutely necessary.”

“The reality is, the Muslim community is under attack. It’s not just the violence — it’s the sneers, it’s the looks. Our women in their hijabs are visibly targeted and it’s the small things that add up that turn into a catastrophe,” he said.