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Ottawa family vows not to let racist graffiti intimidate them
Published Thursday, May 16, 2019 4:47PM EDT Last Updated Thursday, May 16, 2019 5:57PM EDT
Your home is supposed to be a place where you feel safe but an east end family says that sense of security ended with a racial slur spray-painted on their garage.
Now, they're calling on the city and the police to be proactive to prevent another family from feeling their pain.The Konga family is choosing to turn this horrible and terrifying incident into a galvanizing moment for our community.
“So basically this is where it was the “n” word was right here,” says Achille Konga, as he points to his garage door.
The paint is gone now, but clearly the pain isn't.
“We cannot pretend it didn't happen,” he says, “because it did happen.”
On May 4th, a neighbor in the middle of the night alerted the Konga family to the hateful message spray-painted on the garage of their east end Ottawa home, where they had lived for nearly two decades.
“Your home is supposed to be place you feel safe,” says Konga, “and today we don't feel safe in our home.”
Konga, who's a pharmacist and his wife, who's a doctor, left Cameroon to raise their three children in Ottawa. The hateful graffiti - gave them pause; but only briefly.
“You came to the wrong family,” he says, “I'm stronger than you think. It will take more than that to get me out of here. This is such a beautiful country. I chose to live here because I knew how Canadians were, how beautiful this country was.”
The family has the backing of several organizations that held a news conference in their driveway.
Godlove Ngwafusi is with the African Canadian Association of Ottawa, “This is not a case of kids misbehaving at all,” he says, “This is a growing problem in Ottawa and Canada as a whole.”
They say there is a growing nationalist sentiment in Canada.
“There's a minority of people who don't think this is a country that should include our presence,” says Richard Sharpe with 613-Black Hub.
And they worry how far that hatred can go if left unchecked.
“We should not have to fear that white racists are going to come back to harm our families,” says Sophia Jacob with the Black Ottawa Business Network.
So they are asking that the city establish an anti-racism secretariat, something Toronto has done. Councillor Rawlson King is Ottawa’s first black councillor and attended the news conference. He says he'll push that idea.
“We have a large black population here and these acts of racism can't stand,” he says.
Ottawa Police say while they don't have a designated “hate crime unit,” this is being thoroughly investigated.
“In terms of hate motivated incidents, we investigate every one of them,” says Staff-Sergeant Ian Hayes, with the Ottawa Police Diversity and Race Relations Unit, “and there are trained investigators that look at it from criminal perspective.”
In the meantime, the Konga family is drawing strength from the support of others.
“Nobody, nobody will take that away from us,” he says.
Konga says his family has been so touched by the reaction of neighbours who have brought flowers and food and offered to help remove that hateful message.
Further confirmation, he says, they made the right decision to move here to Canada.