WINNIPEG — A teacher who came to Canada from Bangladesh eight years ago says a man who claimed to be a Nazi launched racist verbal attacks at her for wearing a hijab during a visit to Manitoba this summer.
Kaniz Fatima of Calgary posted video of the encounter on social media this week and says women who wear hijabs need to be prepared for such comments.
She says she was with relatives on July 2 near Pinawa, about 95 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg. They were driving around looking for scenic spots and asked a man in a parking lot for directions.
Fatima says the man quickly became abusive and told her he was a Nazi, then ordered her to take off her hijab and go back to her country.
Two women who were passing by heard the exchange and told the man that Fatima had just as much right to be in Canada as he did.
In the video, the man can be heard telling Fatima: “I’m a Nazi. Do you know what a Nazi is? Take your head towel off in this country.”
The teacher calls him a racist and tells him she can dress any way she wants, but the man tells her: “It (the hijab) supports Muslims” and moments later he says: “Go back to your country.”
“This is my country,” Fatima replied.
“No, it’s not,” the man said.
One of the two passersby can be heard telling Fatima: “You don’t even have to explain yourself. You’re just as much Canadian as he is.”
Fatima says she was shocked and scared for herself and her family, but there was no physical confrontation.
Global News said Thursday that it spoke to a man who confirmed he was the man from the video.
Nick Wadien said during the phone interview that he isn’t a Nazi.
“The turbaners wouldn’t leave me alone so I got mad. I didn’t want to talk to them. That’s it,” Wadien explained.
“They wanted to know where they were. I told them, and I told them to use Google.”
“They kept f—ing talking, like I don’t want to talk to you.”
Alysha Goertzen, meanwhile, told Global that she was one of the passersby and was shocked by the incident.
“As I approached, I could hear him screaming racial slurs at her, degrading her. She was a little spitfire herself, standing up for herself,” Goertzen said in an interview from Edmonton.
Helmut-Harry Loewen, a retired University of Winnipeg sociology professor who monitors hate groups, said the encounter seems to be part of a trend.
“We’ve certainly seen here in Manitoba a rise … in open expressions of racism, or Islamophobia in particular,” Loewen said Thursday.
“There’s an increased willingness, I would venture to say, on the part of some critics … of refugee and immigration policy, to be much bolder and to break certain taboos around racial discourse which we haven’t seen in many, many years.”
Loewen said while many people argue the election of Donald Trump as United States president has emboldened some people in Canada and the U.S. to speak more overtly about racist feelings, the reaction to immigration policies in Canada also paints a disturbing picture.
“I would also add that the election of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also unleashed a storm, a torrent, of hate aimed against Trudeau because of his migrant policy,” Loewen said.
“If you look at a whole range of websites and also statements made by individuals … Trudeau is cast as a terrorist sympathizer. In other words, proponents of a refugee policy of welcoming migrants to Canada are being cast as terrorists.”
There have been expressions of support for Fatima on social media.
“This is not Manitoba, and this is not Canada. This kind of hate and vitriol have no place here,” Winnipeg South Liberal member of Parliament Terry Duguid posted on Twitter.
RCMP say they did not receive any complaint and are not actively investigating.
“Get ready to face those racist filthy comments if you have a hijab on,” Fatima warns in her social media post. “If it happened to me, it might happen to you.”