Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan is calling on world leaders to crack down on online hate and extremism following the deadly truck attack in London, Ont. — now being investigated by authorities as a possible act of terror.
Four people were killed and a nine-year-old boy suffered serious injuries when they were run down by a pickup truck Sunday evening.
Police say the family was targeted because they were Muslim. The family moved to Canada from Pakistan in 2007.
“Everyone is shocked in [Pakistan], because we saw the family picture, and so a family being targeted like that has had a deep impact in Pakistan,” Khan told the CBC’s chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton.
Khan, a former captain of Pakistan’s national cricket team, entered politics shortly after his retirement from the sport in 1992 and became Pakistan’s prime minister in 2018.
You can watch the full, exclusive interview on Rosemary Barton Live, which airs Sunday mornings at 10 a.m. ET on CBC News Network and on Gem, the CBC’s streaming service.
Saddened to learn of the killing of a Muslim Pakistani-origin Canadian family in London, Ontario. This condemnable act of terrorism reveals the growing Islamophobia in Western countries. Islamophonia needs to be countered holistically by the international community.
“I think there should be a very strict action against this,” said Khan of online radicalization.
“When there are these hate websites which create hatred amongst human beings, there should be an international action against them.”
Online radicalization a factor in recent mass killings
While investigators have not yet determined if the accused, 20-year-old Nathaniel Veltman, participated in online activity that promoted extremism or violence, Khan said the recent pattern of domestic terror in Western countries demands a heightened focus on online radicalization.
The perpetrators of other recent mass killings — such as the 2017 gun attack at a Quebec City mosque and the 2018 Yonge Street van attack in Toronto — took part in online activities that are believed by investigators to have contributed to their radicalization.
Khan said he has raised the issue with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He described Trudeau as a leader who understands the importance of fighting online hate and Islamophobia, though he said other leaders have not yet made the same commitment.
“The world leaders, whenever they decide upon taking action, this will be dealt with,” Khan said.
“The problem is at the moment, there is not enough motivation and that some international leaders, or leaders in the Western countries, actually don’t understand this phenomenon.”
Canada to host summit on Islamophobia this summer
Trudeau pledged to crack down on online hate speech when he introduced a new digital charter in 2019, though critics say Ottawa has been slow to implement changes that could stop online radicalization.
The government is now poised to tackle Islamophobia once again. MPs voted today in favour of an NDP proposal to hold an emergency summit on Islamophobia by the end of July.
New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh said Canada must address the threat of white supremacy and far-right radicalization and make policy changes at every level of government to prevent another attack.
While Khan said he “mostly agrees” with Trudeau and his position on extremism, he also expressed concern with some Canadian laws that he believes are contributing to Islamophobia.
Khan described Quebec’s Bill 21 — which bans public servants, including teachers and police officers, from wearing religious symbols at work — as a form of “secular extremism” that leads to intolerance against Muslims.
“You want humans to basically be free to express the way they want to be, as long as it doesn’t cause pain and hurt to other human beings,” Khan said.