Couple fears for safety after man hurls racist insults in front of their 8-year-old daughter
- Stephane Giroux, CTV News Montreal Videojournalist
Nadisha Hosein was pulling out of her driveway in Montreal's LaSalle borough with her husband, Pramit Patel, and their eight-year-old daughter last Thursday, when a pedestrian came out of nowhere behind her.
"When I saw him, I thought I'll just wait until he passes, and I'll continue reversing," she said.
The man, however, started berating her and her family, yelling racist slurs.
"Go back to India or Pakistan, get out of here!" the man in his 50s yelled in French as a neighbour captured the exchange on camera. He also yelled at the two for speaking English.
Patel and Hosein were both born and raised in the Montreal area and speak French fluently.
"He told me to go home, so I thought, maybe he wants me to cross the bridge and return to Chateauguay where I was born," said Hosein.
The video then shows their next-door neighbour, Caroline Vinchon, trying to intervene, urging the man not to insult people in the neighbourhood.
"All the while, my eight-year-old daughter was sitting in the back seat, and she was witnessing the entire thing," said Hosein.
Vinchon first heard the shouting from her living room and took her share of insults.
"When he heard my accent," said the France-born woman, "he said, 'you're different, go back to France.' He started insulting me very badly. I told him you can be angry at people, but you cannot insult them about their race, religion or language."
Hosein and her husband called the police to report what they felt was a hate crime.
They said, however, that the Montreal police (SPVM) was of little help.
"They said they couldn't do anything since there were no threats involved," said Hosein.
The SPVM created a team specialized in investigating hate crimes in 2016, but the legal threshold for prosecuting a hate crime requires a physical threat or attack for racial motives - threatening someone because of their religion or vandalizing a home or place of worship using hateful messages for example.
But there's a subtle distinction between a hate incident and a hate crime.
Offensive material or insults are considered hate incidents.
Hosein said the SPVM initially said there was nothing they could do, but the police said it would transfer the incident report and the video to its hate crime division.
Anti-racism activists said the police should at least have tried to track down the man.
"Identify the guy, and determine his ability to escalate the incident from verbal diarrhea to an actual act of violence," said former RCMP officer and anti-racism group Red Coalition president Alain Babineau. "But they didn't do that. That's lazy police work."
Neighbours told CTV News that the man often walks in the neighbourhood. CTV News found the man, who denied he was racist and said there were two sides to the story.
He then physically tried to assault this reporter when pressed for comments.
"This is my home," he said while walking away and saying that the bilingual couple had a duty to speak French.
For Hosein though, the insults cut deeply. Especially because it happened in front of their daughter. "While we were driving away, my daughter said, 'Mommy are we the wrong colour?'" she said. "So I said, 'We're not the wrong colour. There are just stupid people in the world.'"
She did, however, have harsh words for the current political climate in Quebec because of the recent adoption of Bill 21, which limits the use of religious symbols, and Bill 96, an updated version of Quebec's French-language law.
"It's the first time my husband and I have experienced racism the whole time we've been living here," she said. "Premier Francois Legault said he was against multiculturalism [and] he has a big following. And maybe this man was one of them."
The family is now concerned about their own safety, knowing that the man who came at them so aggressively lives in their neighbourhood.
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