Canada’s Trudeau condemns ‘terrorist attack’ after four Muslims killed

8 June 2021, 17:24

Mourners leave flowers at the site of the attack (Brett Gundlock/AP)
Canada Hate Crime. Picture: PA

Four members of a family died when a man drove a pick-up vehicle towards them in what is being treated as a hate crime.

A pick-up lorry attack that killed four members of an immigrant family has shaken Canada, a country where immigrants are largely accepted, and drew denunciations from Canada’s prime minister, who called it a hate attack directed at Muslims.

The victims, two parents, two children and a grandmother, were on an evening walk when the lorries struck them at a junction in London, Ontario.

“This was a terrorist attack, motivated by hatred, in the heart of one of our communities,” prime minister Justin Trudeau told Parliament.

“If anyone thinks racism and hatred don’t exist in this country, I want to say this: How do we explain such violence to a child in a hospital?

“How can we look families in the eye and say ‘Islamophobia isn’t real’?

The victims’ extended family issued a statement identifying the dead as Salman Afzal, 46; his wife Madiha, 44; their daughter Yumna, 15; and a 74-year-old grandmother whose name was withheld.

A nine-year-old boy taken to hospital was identified as Fayez.

Friends said they moved to Canada 14 years ago.

Many Canadians have been enjoying evening walks to get fresh air after long days at home during the pandemic, Mr Trudeau said.

“But unlike every other night, this family never made it home,” Mr Trudeau said.

“Their lives were taken in a brutal, cowardly and brazen act of violence.

“This killing was no accident. … Canadians are outraged by what happened on Sunday.

“And many Muslim Canadians are scared.”

Justin Trudeau takes part in a moment of silence in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa (Sean Kilpatrick/AP)
Justin Trudeau takes part in a moment of silence in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa (Sean Kilpatrick/AP)

Mr Trudeau said words matter and in part blamed rhetoric, disinformation and extremism online and in politics.

“They can be a seed that grows into an ugly, pervasive trend.

“And sometimes, they lead to real violence,” the prime minister said.

Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan said on Twitter that the attack revealed the growing Islamophobia in western countries.

A 20-year-old suspect, Nathaniel Veltman, was arrested in the car park of a nearby shopping centre.

He was facing four counts of first-degree murder.

Police said Veltman, a resident of London, did not know the victims.

Detective Superintendent Paul Waight said it was not clear if he belonged to any specific hate group, but that local police were working with federal authorities to investigate potential terrorism charges.

He said the attack was planned.

Everyone who knew the Afzal family knew “the model family they were as Muslims, Canadians and Pakistanis”, the statement from the extended family said.

“They worked extremely hard in their fields and excelled.

“Their children were top students in their school and connected strongly with their spiritual identity.”

A fundraising webpage said the father was a physiotherapist and cricket enthusiast and his wife was working on a doctorate in civil engineering at Western University in London.

Police officers look for evidence (Geoff Robins/AP)
Police officers look for evidence (Geoff Robins/AP)

Their daughter was finishing ninth grade, and the grandmother was a “pillar” of the family, the page said.

The family statement urged the public to stand against hate and Islamophobia.

“This young man who committed this act of terror was influenced by a group that he associated with, and the rest of the community must take a strong stand against this, from the highest levels in our government to every member of the community,” the statement said.

Flowers were placed around a lamp post and a tree where the vehicle crossed onto the pavement.

A vigil was scheduled for Tuesday night at the mosque the family attended.

Mr Trudeau and other federal political party leaders were scheduled to attend.

Rauf Ahmad and three friends watched the growing tribute on the corner.

“I didn’t think there was racism in Canada, and I felt very safe when I came here two years ago, but I do not feel safe now,” Mr Ahmad said.

“Humanity is first.

“We should not care about whether someone is a Muslim, a Jew or a Christian.”

Zahid Khan, a family friend, said the family belonged to the London Muslim Mosque.

“They were just out for their walk that they would go out for every day,” Mr Khan said through tears near the site of the crash.

“I just wanted to see.”

A police car passes the location where a family of five was hit by a driver (Brett Gundlock/AP)
A police car passes the location where a family of five was hit by a driver (Brett Gundlock/AP)

Mayor Ed Holder said flags would be lowered for three days in London, which he said has 30,000 to 40,000 Muslims among its more than 400,000 residents.

Canada is generally welcoming toward immigrants and all religions, but in 2017 a French Canadian man known for far-right, nationalist views went on a shooting rampage at a Quebec City mosque that killed six people.

By Press Association

Latest World News

See more Latest World News

School Shooting Michigan

Teenager charged over high school shooting that left four dead

Spain Volcano

Volcanic lava threatens church and more homes on Spanish island

Mexico Prison Break

Nine inmates escape after gang rams vehicles into Mexican prison

Actor Jussie Smollett (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)

Police: Jussie Smollett ‘upset’ camera did not record attack

There are serious doubt's over Peng's safety and freedom

Peng Shuai: Women's tennis tournaments cancelled in China over fears for player's safety

The European Commission chief has called on countries to introduce a vaccine mandate.

Europe must consider mandatory vaccines, says EU chief Ursula Von der Leyen

Ursula von der Leyen

EU should consider making Covid-19 jabs mandatory, says von der Leyen

School Shooting Michigan

Fourth student dies after Michigan high school shooting

Fossils found in Chile are from the bizarre dog-sized dinosaur species that had a unique slashing tail weapon, scientists reported (Luis Perez Lopez via AP)

New dinosaur species from Chile had a unique slashing tail

Dr Tedros Adhanom warned countries to take the new variant 'extremely seriously'

WHO: 'Toxic mix' of low vaccine coverage and testing was perfect 'recipe' for new variants

People wait for a coronavirus test in Seoul, South Korea

South Korea confirms first five cases of Omicron variant

Firefighters, police officers and railway employees stand on a railway site in Munich, Germany (Sven Hoppe/dpa via AP)

Four injured after Second World War bomb explodes at Munich construction site

The BioNTech chief said vaccines will still work against Omicron

'Don't freak out' about Omicron because vaccines will work, BioNTech chief says

Fijian soldiers on the Solomon Islands

New Zealand sends police and army to Solomon Islands to quell riots

Traveller at Japanese airport

Japan suspends reservations on incoming flights to halt spread of Covid variant

Rust movie set

Alec Baldwin Rust shooting: Police investigate how live rounds got on set