Days after Welcoming Communities Board member and Grey County employee Waleed Aslam posted with joy his appointment by the City of Owen Sound to the Downtown Improvement Area board, his Facebook page erupted with disturbing, and obviously well coordinated attacks on him and on new business owners in Owen Sound. Negative and hateful comments attacking Waleed and Muslim business people were posted, all based on myths and untruths designed to intimidate. The posts, and the men behind these posts, want people to believe that newcomers and Muslims are a threat to our city and region.

Welcoming Communities Grey Bruce is speaking out against myths, false allegations and attacks against Muslims and other newcomers in our community. We know that the majority of citizens in Owen Sound welcome newcomers and are excited to have diverse businesses and cultures as part of our community. We know the facts that the fear mongers on Facebook refuse to acknowledge: there is overwhelming research showing the positive impact of newcomers in rural communities, that newcomers do not ‘steal’ jobs but bring new jobs, employment opportunities and wealth to rural communities, that new Newcomers love this area and are part of all aspects of community life and do not wish to be isolated from it, that newcomers bring rich cultural, language and faith diversity to our area, that newcomers are growing the population in Grey Bruce after decades of struggle with outmigration, aging citizens and lack of skilled workers, and that newcomers share the same needs and aspirations as people who have always lived here – the need for community, safety, respect and caring, employment, education, faith, and fun for themselves and their children.

It is true that newcomers from other cultural, language and faith backgrounds present people who have lived here for generations with difference, and for some people this can be challenging. Welcoming Communities believes that we have a lot to learn from one another, and expanding our knowledge and understanding makes our community and us stronger. Welcoming Communities is committed to educating and supporting everyone to build a Grey Bruce that is inclusive and welcoming, where everyone belongs and no one is left behind. We are proud of the hard working citizens who have come here with their families and are building a new life in Owen Sound. Instead of attacking and demeaning newcomers and Muslims we know that most citizens of Owen Sound understand their challenges and admire their courage and hard work.

The individuals who posted hateful and demeaning posts about Waleed Aslam on his Facebook page clearly do not understand the benefits that newcomers and new businesses bring to our city. They also don’t know Waleed Aslam, a man who lives and works in this city, and has worked tirelessly to promote Owen Sound as a great place to live, work, and do business in. That is why the city of Owen Sound, asked Waleed to join the DIA. – because he has the skills and passion that the City is searching for to demonstrate ‘We are a welcoming, inclusive and age-friendly city’ and to grow local businesses and business opportunities (Owen Sound Strategic Plan). That is why Waleed gives so much of his volunteer time to Welcoming Communities and many other groups.

The board of directors of Welcoming Communities asks everyone to speak up and actively support newcomers in our community, and to search out the facts if you have questions. We need to base our opinions and beliefs on truth and human kindness, not on myths and the fear of change. We are all collectively responsible for ensuring that citizens like Waleed Aslam are safe and respected when they volunteer for their community, and for holding bullies and fear mongers accountable for their false words and threats.

Welcoming Communities Grey Bruce