[Editor’s note: This text, originally written in French, was posted publicly by the author on Facebook on April 12, 2023, and circulated on social media. In less than two days, it was shared 150 times and received 57 comments. The Editorial Board of the NB Media Co-op thought it would be appropriate to share with our readers to illustrate the overt racism and Islamophobia that persists throughout the province of New Brunswick. The author has kindly allowed us to republish the text and we thank her for her courage. The text has been corrected and formatted for our publication with the author’s approval.]
Today, Wednesday, April 12, I was accompanying a newcomer who was shopping in Caraquet. Everything was going well until a gentleman “with a well established mental state,” approached me and spoke to me in English (under the pretext that I am an immigrant so I don’t speak French!).
He said: “Are you allowed to wear that here?
I didn’t understand and I answered: “To wear what?”
He said, “That thing on your head.”
I responded, “Are you allowed to wear your shirt?”
He answered, “Yes, but not you.”
I retorted, “Is there any rule that said I’m not allowed to wear it?”
He replied, raising his voice: “YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO WEAR THIS IN CARAQUET” and continued: “WE DON’T WANT YOU IN CANADA.”
I replied: “Talk about yourself, not in the name of all Canadians.”
And then he said the infamous phrase: “WE DON’T WANT YOU HERE. GO BACK TO YOUR COUNTRY.”
The intern who was accompanying me told him to stop. The intern is a man. Obviously, this gentleman is not afraid of confronting a woman but he calmed down when a man told him to stop. He continued on his way, speaking badly.
A few seconds later, we passed a nice woman named Claire. We were all talking and I told her what had just happened. She was so upset and felt so bad that she had tears in her eyes.
We separated and ran into each other again and, what’s this? The RACIST ISLAMOPHOBIC MAN telling her not to talk to us… Since the woman was not cooperating with him, he got angry and started saying Islamophobic words too.
I was able to film only one part where the gentleman says: “In her country, in IRAQ, they killed a beautiful young girl because she didn’t wear her headscarf properly… and we’re going to have that here, fu*king shit.”
I don’t know how he decided that I was from Iraq! And since when do they kill women in Iraq for wearing a hijab wrong? Just because I’m not white and wear a hijab doesn’t mean I’m from the Middle East. Anyway, go explain that to an ignorant person.
I’m a multiculturalism trainer and I think there’s still a lot of work to be done… At his age, education should still be his priority.
I could have gone home and forgotten about this story and not made it public but, NO!
How many women have been harassed before me and will be afterwards because they wear a scarf on their head? And, how many people are subject to this kind of situation because they have a different in skin colour or religion?
To say that racism does not exist and that everyone is welcoming in the Acadian Peninsula is false! Racism and Islamophobia exist everywhere. God knows how many men and women think like this man.
Finally, thank you to all the ladies who got involved and stopped him, and to the manager and employees of the Caraquet IGA for apologizing for him, for not allowing him to set foot in their shop, and for calling the police. Thank you for doing the right thing. I hope the justice system will take care of him!
Sonia Ryma Ait Kheddache is a development officer with the Comité d’accueil, d’intégration et d’établissement des nouveaux arrivants de la Péninsule acadienne [the Acadian Peninsula’s Welcome, Integration & Settlement Committee for Newcomers] and the Réseau mieux-être de la péninsule acadienne [Acadian Peninsula Wellness Network] in Shippagan, New Brunswick.