An Ontario man who fled Afghanistan amid threats of a militant takeover said he was never asked for a license plate that looked like the word ISIS because the state refused to change it until he was nearly killed. , says his life was in danger on many occasions.
Nouman, 29, came to Canada as a refugee with his mother and brother about 10 years ago. His father died a few years ago and life was not safe for a single mother in Kabul.
They hoped that Canada would give them safety and “peace of mind.” But a string of license plates he rolled up last year will put him in danger again.CBC News identifies the 29-year-old man by name only for his safety concerns.
When Nouman bought his first bike from a dealer last summer, he didn’t pay much attention to the fact that it used a plate that said 1S1S6.
But after multiple death threats and accusations of being a supporter of a terrorist group, Neumann asked the state service provider, Service Ontario, to replace the plate.Instead of issuing him a new one. , he says, was wiped out and left vulnerable again.
“Not only was my life threatened at that point, but I was ridiculed by public officials for the exact same thing,” he said.
“It puts you in a really helpless place.”
“We know you are a supporter”
This isn’t the first time a state has come under scrutiny for failing to rule out a potentially offensive plate.of 2018 When 2019CBC Toronto reported on vanity plates that seem to pass under the radar despite having graphic meanings in various languages, including Punjabi, Hindi and Urdu.
But this particular license plate should have made an obvious flag, given that it’s a well-known designated Canadian terrorist group that made headlines for the atrocities committed by ISIS.
Momin Rahman, a professor at the University of Trent who studies racism and Islamophobia, said the plate Mr Neumann warned was “clearly stigmatizing” for him and the state should have known better. Says.
Just two months after purchasing the bike, Nouman said someone shouted slurs outside Toronto Metropolitan University, asking what his license plate meant. Nouman dismissed it as he was a one-off. Winter was just around the corner, so he put away his bike quickly anyway.
But this spring, the threat began again. In May, three men pushed him out of school, threatening him and saying, “I know you’re a supporter.”
Neumann then says he called the police and asked them to go to the Service Ontario location in Etobicoke and change the plates. He said the attendant dismissed his concerns and would be charged $59 for the change.
Numan refused, saying the plate should never have been put into circulation given how closely it resembled the term ISIS. States Ban License Plates Deemed Unfavorable for Many Reasonsincluding: language that is sexual in nature, vulgar, abusive, derogatory, references to religion, promotes violence, contains political opinions, or expresses hatred towards an individual or group.
“Yes, I can pay this amount to avoid this, but at the same time Service Ontario has a responsibility to provide a full plate so that I don’t get killed, right?” he said.
On June 10, Nouman said he was approached again by another group of men outside the convenience store where he worked. This time, he said, he decided to go to a government official the next day and make his case again.
He had little success.
Nouman says he was nearly hit by a man in a gray or silver car on Dundas Street on his way to Service Ontario’s offices in Mississauga. Luckily, Neumann was able to turn into an empty lane just in time, catch up with a car at a red light, write down his license plate and file another police report.
He has no way of knowing for sure, but he believes this is just one of many that were motivated by his license plate. Peel District Police confirmed to CBC News that Neumann filed the report, but he did not confirm the date or say if an investigation was underway.
“This was lucky on so many levels because the left lane was open, because I was able to see this person on time and react on time. probably didn’t come here to tell you this story.
Finally, that day, he says the Service Ontario attendant replaced his plate at no charge and apologized to him for the experience he had experienced.
Institutions need to ‘react’ more: Professor
Rahman, meanwhile, said that as Canada’s population becomes more diverse, public institutions need to be more culturally conscious and “capable” of the people they serve.
“And it’s a little shocking to learn that it wasn’t immediately understood, and that drivers and their families could be targeted by such license plates.”
A spokesperson for the office of the Ontario Minister of Public and Business Services Delivery apologized for Nouman’s experience, adding that his plate was eventually replaced free of charge.
“We apologize to this individual for not meeting our service standards and are working to ensure that such a situation does not occur again,” the statement said.
The ministry said it aims to be “as holistic and detailed as possible” when reviewing plates to make sure there are no objections. However, due to manual work, it may miss certain combinations of letters and numbers.
The ministry also said civil servants have completed mandatory training to support cultural sensitivities.
Neumann, meanwhile, says he was told the original plate would be destroyed. He has also sold bicycles since then. But he says he wants assurances that no one else will be given a plate that could endanger them.
Overall, he says the whole experience left him feeling “disappointed.”
“If they spell dangerous things like that and they’re out, it’s a definite threat.”