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Feds announce funding for Muslim victim supports as trial in alleged terror attack continues

As the trial of the man accused of killing a London, Ont. Muslim family continues, the federal government announced funding for victim services for London's Muslim community on Friday.

On Friday, the federal government announced the start of the Culturally Integrative Coordinated Community Support Program, spearheaded by the not-for-profit organization Muslim Resource Centre for Social Support and Integration Inc. (MRCSSI).

The announcement took place at Goodwill Industries in London, Ont.

Gathered for announcement was Minister of Diversity, Inclusion, and Persons with Disabilities Kamal Khera, on behalf of Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Arif Virani, MP London-West Arielle Kayabaga, Executive Director of the Canadian Race Relation Foundation (CRRF) Mohammed Hashim, and Executive Director of the Muslim Resource Centre for Social Support and Integration Inc. (MRCSSI) Mohammed Baobaid, among others.

Together, they announced funding for the Culturally Integrative Coordinated Community Support Program, a project that will provide “culturally appropriate counselling to families, individuals and victims of the Muslim community” that were affected by the killing of the Afzaal family in London on June 6, 2021.

As the murder trial of accused Nathaniel Veltman nears the end of its fourth week, the funding will be used to increase victim supports in London’s Muslim community.

(Left to right) Elyas Farooqi of the Muslim Resource Centre for Social Support and Integration, London-Fanshawe MP Lindsay Mathyssen, Exceutive Director of the Muslim Resource Centre Mohammed Baobaid, MP London-West Arielle Kayabaga, Minister of Diversity, Inclusion, and Persons with Disabilities Kamal Khera, and Amira Elghawaby, Canada's special representative on combating islamophobia. (Reta Ismail/CTV News London)

"The tragic loss of Our London Family is also a stark reminder of the importance of building communities where tolerance and acceptance prevail, and where victims are heard and can find the support they need,” said Khera. Our combined efforts shine a light on hope and healing for Our London Family but also the Muslim communities across Canada.”

Justice Canada will provide the MRCSSI with $202,131 over one fiscal year (2023-2024) through the Victims Fund for the Culturally Integrative Coordinated Community Support Program, while the CRRF will also provide the MRCSSI with $60,000 over two fiscal years (2023-2025) to support the program.

"London's Muslims are really grappling with the various details that have been coming out through this trial of the attack on our London family, it has re-traumatized young people, their parents, families, and people really had needed spaces to go and share this and find support," said Amira Elghawaby, Special Representative on Combatting Islamophobia of Canada. 

"The mental impact on those affected is undeniable, and yet oftentimes — overlooked. This is not only an investment in mental health and counseling, it is also an investment in resilience and healing," said London Mayor Josh Morgan. "Deep trauma that is created with events like these, they go well beyond, well beyond the immediate family, and this money is absolutely needed, absolutely needed with the funding of our community on a wider scale.”

The support program will provide services to the Muslim community, including counselling, therapeutic groups, workshops and increased awareness initiatives and engagement.

The federal government announced on Sept. 29, 2023 in London, Ont. funding for victim services for the Muslim community. (Reta Ismail/CTV News London)

Hina Islam, registered psychotherapist (qualifying), has seen first hand what youth members from the Muslim community have been through, trying to cope with the loss of an entire family.

"A lot of the youth I work with were friends with Yumnah, and this year is their twelfth year, and Yumnah [Afzaal] would have graduated from high school. I keep pictures of her [on my phone], grade eight graduation. And I hear stories, that these youth had to graduate together, to apply to university together, and now I am hearing these stories, that they will be doing - with those memories, but without Yumnah,” said Islam. 

“As we watch the trial for the murders of Our London Family unfold, we remember the precious lives lost and reaffirm our commitment to combatting Islamophobia in all forms," said Kayabaga. "The vigils are organized by children, let's be honest. They are kids who are friends with the family that has passed, and they are the ones who carry the burden of taking care of the rest of their community, and talking about what actually happened here. It's important that we give them the support that they need, to have a better future mentally and emotionally as well.”

She added, "Today’s announcement of $202,000 in funding for the Muslim Resource Centre is deeply important in supporting community members as they learn more details of this horrific act of hatred. Our London Family continues to stand united against hate in our community and across the country.: 

"We want to create space for the community where they can come together and to go through the grief and heal. As well as we will have outreach work, so going out there to the community, because we know many members of the community will not necessarily be asking for professional help,” Baobaid. Top Stories

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