Montreal family's trip to the park leads to racist confrontation

A family trip to a Montreal park turned ugly on Thursday, as one woman said she was subjected to a racist tirade that was set off by merely sitting on a swing.

Nadia Naqvi, a disabled high school teacher, said she brought her family to Paquin Park in the city's West Island as a belated celebration for the end of the Muslim holiday of Eid-ul-Adha at around 7 p.m. Naqvi said she headed to her favourite part of the park: the swings. She was soon approached by a woman who told her the swings were for children only.

“I literally must have done two swings when she came up to me. At first when she said 'you need to get off,' I thought if I said okay to her and thank her, she'd go away because it's none of her business,” said Naqvi. “But she didn't, she continued and then she started filming us.”

Naqvi said she asked the woman to stop videoing her and her family. Naqvi said her brothers and other park goers came to her defence and the woman called the police. But when the police heard her complaint was regarding an adult using the swings in the park, they hung up on her.

Naqvi said during the altercation, the woman made a racist hand gesture.

“ (She) then made the universal hand gesture for hijab. Circling her face with her hand and said, 'Here comes another one,'” Naqvi wrote in a Facebook post describing the incident.

“It's becoming universally known that a non-verbal description of a women in hijab is to circle your face a couple of times,” Naqvi told CTV News. “That's when it became a race issue for us.”

Naqvi said one of her brothers encouraged the family to walk away.

“How long are we going to stand there and arguing with her? I think she just loves confrontation. She kept telling us 'Okay, go away now.' When we did walk away, she went 'Go run away from us.'”

Despite the ugly confrontation, Naqvi said she was heartened that many others in the park came to support her. She said she told Pierrefonds Mayor Jim Beis about the incident who encouraged her to go to police, an option she said she likely won't pursue.

“I don't see a point in it. My entire life, whenever something has happened to me and the discussion has come up 'Should we call the police?' We always said 'To what end?' because we don't think anything is going to come of it. Ask any person of colour: when the issue comes up, we don't think like white people. We've been unintentionally programmed in this society that what happens to us doesn't matter, that we should second guess what happens to us.” 

SIGN UP NOW

Stay up-to-date and in-the-know by subscribing to one of our newsletters