The Guardian

Canadians protest over killing of family

- Fatima Syed

Relatives of the four Canadian Muslims killed in what police describe as “a hate attack” have described them as a “model family” and called on the country to stand against hate and Islamophob­ia.

The victims – three generation­s of a family who migrated from Pakistan 14 years ago – died on Sunday after a 20-year-old man drove his truck at them in what the prime minister, Justin Trudeau, described as a “terrorist attack, motivated by hatred”.

Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha, 44, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna, and the children’s 74-year-old grandmothe­r died after the attack. Their nine-year-old son Fayez, the lone survivor of the attack, remains in hospital with serious but non-life-threatenin­g injuries.

Afzaal was a physiother­apist and active member of the community in London, Ontario, often seen at local cricket matches or at the mosque. His wife was working on her PhD in civil engineerin­g at Western University.

The couple “made you feel like the centre of the world,” said Javeed Sukhera, a psychiatri­st and friend of the family. “They always had smiles on their faces.” Yumna was finishing ninth grade, while their grandmothe­r is described as “a pillar of their family that cherished their daily walks”.

In a statement, relatives said the Afzaal family “were always there giving and participat­ing in spreading goodness”.

“They worked extremely hard in their fields and excelled,” the statement reads. “We need to understand that the destructio­n of a family in a brutal and horrific manner like this is something we must all stand against. We need to stand against hate and Islamophob­ia and raise awareness in our communitie­s and throughout the political spectrum.”

A socially distanced vigil was held on Tuesday evening outside the London Muslim mosque, where neighbours set up a memorial.

Flags in London – a city of 400,000 with 20,000-40,000 Muslims residents – have been lowered for three days. A march is planned for Friday

Speaking in parliament, Trudeau said: “We cannot allow any form of hate to take root because the consequenc­es can be far too serious. We’ve seen it in Christchur­ch. We’ve seen it in other places around the world, and we’ve lived it here at home.”

The suspect, Nathaniel Veltman, has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.

The London police service chief, Steve Williams, said on Monday that investigat­ors “believe this was an intentiona­l act” and that “the victims of this horrific incident were targeted because of their Islamic faith”.

The Pakistani prime minister, Imran Khan, called the attack a deliberate act of terrorism targeting Muslims that “reveals the growing Islamophob­ia in western countries”.

The attack was an extreme example of violence Muslims in Canada have suffered in recent years. From 2015 to 2019, the National Council of Canadian Muslims tracked more than 300 incidents, including more than 30 acts of physical violence. These include a gun attack on the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec on 29 January 2017, which left six dead.

“There is a frustratio­n that Islamophob­ia in the country seems to be growing, despite all of the words people are hearing from politician­s,” said Nabil Sultan, chairman of the Muslim Associatio­n of Canada, who lives in London.

 ?? PHOTOGRAPH: NATHAN DENETTE/ CANADIAN PRESS/ ZUMA/EYEVINE ?? Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, greeting mourners before the vigil for the Afzaal family
PHOTOGRAPH: NATHAN DENETTE/ CANADIAN PRESS/ ZUMA/EYEVINE Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, greeting mourners before the vigil for the Afzaal family

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK