Via Rail Canada has come under fire after a viral two-part TikTok video showed a Muslim man being told by an employee at the Ottawa train station not to pray inside.
On Tuesday, passenger Ahmed posted two videos of his encounter with a Via Rail employee, who confronted him and said, “Don’t pray in here.”
According to Ahmed’s Instagram post, he went to an empty hallway at the station to pray before his train departed.
“I’m in the corner minding my own business praying. I finish praying and come back to where I left my stuff and my coworker tells me the security guard said, ‘You can’t pray here,'” he wrote on Instagram.
In the now-viral TikTok video, the employee is heard saying, “We don’t want you praying in here, you’re bothering our other customers. Pray outside next time.”
Ahmed called the whole ordeal a “disrespectful, racist, and awful situation to be a part of.”
“I just had to keep my cool and not lose my mind. I’m just thinking and saying out loud, ‘We’re in Canada’s capital in Ottawa and you’re being racist because I was minding my own business and praying?'” he wrote.
“By then a couple people came to check on me, and said, ‘Don’t mind him — this isn’t Ottawa. We apologize, keep doing your thing, you’re not bothering anyone.'”
The employee is also heard in the video saying that he’s going to complain to Ahmed’s employer.
Soon after, Via Rail Canada issued an apology, writing that it was “dismayed” to learn of the incident that occurred at its Ottawa station on Monday.
“First and foremost, we want to apologize unreservedly to the individuals involved and to the entire Muslim community,” the statement reads.
“Freedom of religion, including the ability to worship, is a human right and is enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Via Rail strongly condemns and will not tolerate any form of discriminatory behaviour,” the apology continues.
“We take this situation very seriously and are currently investigating the incident and will take the appropriate actions pending the outcome of that investigation.”
Via Rail Canada also told Daily Hive that the security guard seen in the video is not a Via Rail employee.
“Via Rail has asked our security subcontractor to remove him from any Via Rail contracts pending the outcome of the investigation,” an emailed statement reads.
The incident occurred just days before the start of Ramadan on Thursday, which is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting, prayer, reflection, and community.