Canada pays final homage to Muslim family killed in truck attack

People transport a flag-wrapped coffin, outside the Islamic Centre of Southwest Ontario, during a funeral of the Afzaal family that was killed in what police describe as a hate-motivated attack, in London, Ontario, Canada, on Saturday.
People transport a flag-wrapped coffin, outside the Islamic Centre of Southwest Ontario, during a funeral of the Afzaal family that was killed in what police describe as a hate-motivated attack, in London, Ontario, Canada, on Saturday.

London, Canada - Four members of the Afzaal family were out for a walk when a 20-year-old man in a pickup truck drove into them



By AFP

Published: Sat 12 Jun 2021, 11:55 PM

Several hundred mourners joined a public funeral service on Saturday of a Canadian Muslim family run over and killed by a man in a pick-up truck last Sunday in an attack the police said was driven by hate.

The four victims, spanning three generations, were killed when Nathaniel Veltman, 20, ran into them while they were out for an evening walk near their home in London, Ontario. A fifth family member, a 9-year-old boy, is recovering from his injuries in the hospital.

Police have said the attack was premeditated and allege the family was targeted because of their Islamic faith.

The hour-long ceremony started after the four coffins draped in Canadian flags rolled into the compound of the Islamic Centre of Southwest Ontario, and ended with prayers and condolences offered by religious and community leaders.

The funeral procession later proceeded for a private burial.

“And the very fact their coffins are draped in the beautiful Canadian flag is an apt testimony of the fact that the entire Canadian nation stands with them,” Raza Bashir Tarar High Commissioner for Pakistan to Canada told the gathering.

The family moved to Canada from Pakistan some 14 years ago.

The attack sparked outrage across Canada, with politicians from all sides condemning the crime, spurring growing calls to take action to curb hate crime and Islamophobia. The city of London, 200 km (120 miles) southwest of Toronto, has seen an outpouring of support in the aftermath of the attack.

Veltman, who returns to court on Monday, faces four charges of first-degree murder and one of attempted murder.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called the killings a “terrorist attack” and vowed to clamp down on far-right groups and online hate.

“I think we’re emotionally exhausted,” Imam Aarij Anwer told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp before the ceremony. “We’re looking forward to having some closure on Saturday.”The city of London, Ontario paid homage Saturday to a Muslim family deliberately mowed down by the driver of a pick-up truck, in an attack that has shocked Canadians and which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau denounced as “terrorist.”

Four members of the Afzaal family — a man and his wife, their teenage daughter and his mother — were out for a walk in their London neighborhood Sunday when a 20-year-old man in a black pickup truck drove into them on purpose, according to authorities.

A fifth family member, a nine-year-old boy, was seriously injured but is recovering.

Funeral services for Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha, 44, their daughter Yumna, 15 and Salman’s mother Talat, 74, are set for early Saturday afternoon in the London Islamic center.

A ceremony open to the public is planned on a nearby football field.

The burial will be private, but people are being encouraged to line up along the route of the funeral cortege in solidarity with the victims of the attack, which has badly shaken the Muslim community and other Canadians as well.

Those taking part are urged to wear either green ribbons, to denounce Islamophobia, or mauve ones, the favorite color of young Yumna.

Numerous vigils and solemn commemorations have taken place across Canada in recent days, and on Friday several thousand people joined in an ecumenical walk through the streets of London, which is home to some 30,000 Muslims.

Many bore posters reading “We are all human” or “Hate kills.”

People also paid homage Friday in Quebec City, where a January 2017 mosque shooting claimed six lives.

The latest attack has fueled debate about the prevalence of Islamophobia in Canada and, within the Muslim community, has heightened fears that displaying outward signs of religious affiliation can make a person a target.

The imam Aarji Anwer, from the Islamic center, told the CBC public network that he hoped the ceremony would help people grieve and bring some closure.

In a separate CBC interview, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said the attack had shocked people across Pakistan.

He called on the international community to take action against “hate websites which create hatred amongst human beings.”

“The problem is, at the moment, there is not enough motivation and that some international leaders, or leaders in the Western countries, actually don’t understand this phenomenon,” he added. CBC is airing the interview Sunday, but released excerpts early.

Twenty-year-old Nathaniel Veltman, who has no criminal record and no known link to any extremist group, has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one of attempted murder.

Police, who say the attack was planned and motivated by hatred, have not ruled out adding terrorism-related charges.

Trudeau has promised to step up the fight against extremist groups.

Following the attack, Canadian deputies adopted a nonbinding resolution, introduced by the left-leaning New Democratic Party, calling for a national summit on Islamophobia this summer.


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