Toronto restaurant closes after death threats arise from relatives involvement in Bernier protest – CBC.ca

Toronto restaurant closes after death threats arise from relative\s involvement in Bernier protest - CBC.ca
Toronto restaurant Soufis, founded by Syrian refugee family, closes amid alleged death threats
A Syrian family says it is shutting down its Toronto restaurant after receiving death threats, a week after a relative was involved in a protest at a Maxime Bernier speaking event in Hamilton where a senior was blocked from entering.

The Al-Soufi family, owners of Soufi's located on Queen Street West near Tecumseth Street, posted on Instagram on Tuesday, saying the restaurant is shutting down for good.

We would like to formally apologize for the incident that occurred with the elderly woman. Alaa regrets that he did not step aside and/ or stand up against the act of verbal abuse that occurred against her, and would love the opportunity to personally extend his apologies to her, the family said, adding that their son did not in any way verbally or physically assault the elderly woman.

"As a result of numerous hate messages & death threats we've received over the past week, we've decided to permanently close our shop," the message said. "Our decision is made with a heavy heart in effort to maintain our family and staff's safety."

View this post on Instagram                   Please know that we do not wish to hide or conceal the events that led to these threats, and wish to address the claims and information shared by certain media groups in the near future, once its safe for us to do so

The post's caption said, "Please know that we do not wish to hide or conceal the events that led to these threats, and wish to address the claims and information shared by certain media groups in the near future, once it's safe for us to do so."

As a result of numerous hate messages & death threats weve received over the past week, weve decided to permanently close our shop. Our decision is made with a heavy heart in (an) effort to maintain our family and staffs safety, a statement posted on Soufis Instagram account read.

Toronto police confirmed Tuesday that Soufi's owners notified police about threats made against the business on Oct. 2.

Soufis, a well-known Queen West restaurant operated by a Syrian family who recently immigrated to Canada, came under fire last week after the son of the restaurants owners was involved in an incident outside of a fundraiser in Hamilton for Maxime Berniers Peoples Party of Canada (PPC).

The restaurant ended up embroiled in controversy after the owner's son, according to a family acquaintance, was involved in a protest outside a speaking event for the People's Party of Canada leader in Hamilton on Sept. 29.

Our family and business do not condone acts of hate, violence or harassment in any shape or form, and advocate for peace, equality and free speech for all human beings. Our family immigrated to Canada with the intention of living and working peacefully.

Some protesters attempted to prevent people from entering the building and one video, which was widely shared among Bernier supporters, shows several protesters blocking the path of 81-year-old Dorothy Martson and her husband.

"They were in a lineup … and treating me like I'm a criminal," she said, during a previous interview at the Hamilton-area retirement residence where she lives.

A large crowd of protesters decrying the event stood outside with signs advocating for immigrant rights and yelling chants denouncing those entering, comparing them to Nazis and neo-Nazis. Supporters of the People's Party — some wearing "Make America Great Again" hats — stood behind police and verbally engaged with some of the protesters for about an hour.

I am so sad and infuriated about this, one Instagram user said in response to the statement. Im angry the police hasnt offered more: they should be helping to protect your business.

A scuffle occurred in the crowd of around 100 about half an hour before the event at Hamilton's Mohawk College was scheduled to start. Two men from opposing sides of the protests were led away in handcuffs by police.

The Syrian spot was featured in Toronto Life, Now Magazine, and was even profiled in an article by the New York Times, which referred to the restaurants food as Torontos new craving.

In a Facebook post last week, the restaurant identified one of the people who blocked Marston's way as a man named Alaa. A family acquaintance said Tuesday that Alaa is the owner's son.

We would also like to extend our love & appreciation to our wonderful staff, who have invariably embodied the hard work, dedication, passion and graciousness of Syrian newcomers."

"We would like to formally apologize for the unfortunate incident that occurred with the elderly woman," the statement from the Al-Soufi family read. "Alaa regrets that he did not step aside and/or stand up against the act of verbal abuse."

Husam and Shahnaz Alsoufi and two of their children moved to Canada in October 2015 to join their daughter Jala, who moved to Toronto three years earlier to attend the University of Toronto.

The Facebook post said the family is "extremely lucky and grateful" to be in Canada and respect people's opinions, but they "kindly ask that people refrain from sending abusive and/or threatening messages to our staff and family members."

Thank you so much Madam for standing up for free speech, the politician tweeted. We need courageous people like you if we are to keep our country STRONG and FREE.

The restaurant's Facebook page has since been deleted. CBC News has reached out to the owners for comment.

Police have identified a 14-year-old boy who was fatally stabbed outside his Hamilton, Ont. high school on Monday afternoon in front of his mother.

The restaurant's website outlines how the owners, Husam and Shahnaz Al-Soufi, immigrated to Canada in 2015 and opened what they described as "downtown Toronto's first Syrian restaurant and cafe."

In the Instagram post, the owners said that since opening in 2017, they had "been met with nothing but curiosity, respect, acceptance and love from the people of Toronto, and for that we are eternally grateful.

Another patron wrote, I hope (its) solved soon and we can all enjoy your amazing manakeesh again. So sorry you have to go through this.

Adam Carter is a Newfoundlander who now calls Toronto home. He enjoys a good story and playing loud music in dank bars. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamCarterCBC or drop him an email at [email protected]

In an apology published on Facebook days later, the restaurant confirmed that the owners son Alaa was one of the protesters at the event.

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