Saturday, December 9, 2017

Hundreds gather to pay tribute to Yosif Al-Hasnawi

A heart-wrenching evening tonight, as hundreds filled Hamilton City Hall to pay tribute to Yosif Al-Hasnawi, a 19 year old who was murdered in Hamilton last weekend when he tried to help an elderly man who was being accosted by two young thugs.
There were moving tributes from members of his faith community, local politicians, the president of Brock University, and Yosif's family. I gave a short speech about the scholarship that is being set up in his name. Here's the text of my remarks:
I never had the privilege to meet Yosif. But like many of you, when I heard the news of his bravery, and his senseless death, I was angry and saddened. I wanted a way to channel my anger and grief into something positive. I wanted to find a way to show my respect for a compassionate young man, but also to find a way to say to Yosif’s family, and to the world, that this senseless violence is not who we are as citizens of Hamilton, and as citizens of Canada. I wanted to ensure that Yosif’s loved ones knew that for our community, Yosif was one of us, that he mattered, and that he will be remembered.
 As you know, Yosif was a first year student at Brock University. He was studying medical sciences, and dreamed one day of becoming a doctor. That dream was stolen from him, and his lifetime of helping others was stolen from all of us. We have established a scholarship fund at Brock University in Yosif’s memory. We hope this scholarship will help future students pursue their dreams in a way that Yosif was denied. The scholarship recipients will carry a little piece of Yosif’s spirit with them throughout their education, and on to their own careers helping others.
In just 3 days, we have raised well over $5,000 for the scholarship. We’ve had interest from across the country, and we expect many more donations to come in over the weeks & months ahead. If we can raise a total of $25,000 or more, we will be able to create a permanent, annual scholarship, so that Yosif’s dream can live on through future students year after year.
There are pledge forms at the table. You can also donate online. Details can be found at,, or All amounts are welcome, no matter how small. Donations over $20 will receive a charitable receipt for tax purposes. If you do pick up a pledge form, please take two, and take one to work with you on Monday and ask your employer if they would also be willing to make a donation.
We understand that money can be tight this time of year, and that many of you are generously donating to assist Yosif’s family with expenses so they can take his body to Iraq for burial. The scholarship fund will remain open, and donations are welcome at any time, so even if you can’t make a donation right now, please consider doing so in the future.
And whether you are able to donate or not, each of us can honour Yosif’s memory in our actions each and every day. When you see an injustice on your street, in your community, in your country, or around the world, don’t turn away. Step up, step in, and do what you can to make things right. If we each take inspiration from Yosif’s courage and take a little part of Yosif’s character forward in our hearts, he will have already made the world a better place.