'An act of evil': Trudeau denounces attack on London Ont., Muslim family during vigil

WATCH: Trudeau vows to take action during vigil for London, Ont. Muslim family killed in attack

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has denounced the vehicle attack on a Muslim family in London, Ont., as an “act of evil.”

“Islamophobia is real,” Trudeau said. “Racism is real. You should not have to face that hate in your communities, in your country.

“We can and we will act. We can and we will choose a better way.”

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Trudeau made the comments at a vigil at the London Muslim Mosque on Tuesday evening, just days after four members of the Afzaals, a Pakistani Muslim Canadian family, were killed in what has been called a “targeted attack.”

Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, and their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Afzaal were struck by a pickup truck which mounted a curb and struck the family while they were out for a walk on Sunday evening.

Afzaal’s 74-year-old mother was also killed in the attack.

(From right to left) Salman Afzaal, his 74-year-old mother, his 44-year-old wife Madiha Salman, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Afzaal.

(From right to left) Salman Afzaal, his 74-year-old mother, his 44-year-old wife Madiha Salman, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Afzaal.

Supplied by family

The couple’s nine-year-old son, Fayez Afzaal, suffered serious but non life-threatening injuries in the attack.

Trudeau expressed his condolences, saying he knows the Afzaal family were loved.

“And I know they will be so deeply missed,” he said.

Trudeau said there are “no words” to ease the grief of having lost three generations of a family who were “murdered in their neighbourhood.” He said the Muslim community has made London stronger “for generations.”

“To all Muslim Canadians, we are with you,” he said. “When someone hurts any of us, when someone targets any parent or child or grandparent, we must all stand together and say no.”

Twenty-year-old London man Nathaniel Veltman has been arrested and charged with murder in the attack.

At a press conference earlier on Monday, London police said they believe the Afzaal family was targeted because of their faith.

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London Police Chief Steve Williams said investigators believe the attack was an “intentional act.”

“We believe the victims were targeted because of their Islamic faith,” he told reporters.

Speaking in the House of Commons earlier on Tuesday, Trudeau called the act a “terrorist attack.”

“This was no accident,” he said. “This was a terrorist attack, motivated by hatred, in the heart of one of our communities.”

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London Mayor Ed Holder thanked Trudeau and other federal leaders for attending the vigil and showing their support for the community, before reaffirming his earlier condemnation of the attack.

“This was a terrorist attack, an act of mass murder, and a grotesque expression of hatred rooted in Islamophobia,” he said.

“I’d like to ask you, my Muslim brothers and sisters, to look over your shoulders on this night. Look at the support, the compassion, and the empathy … and see that you are surrounded by love.”

Ontario Premier Doug Ford called the attack an act of “mass murder” and a “hate crime.”

“It was an act of terrorism against a family targeted for their beliefs and their religion,” he told those in attendance at the vigil. “This type of racism and terrorism can not and will not be tolerated. We must stand united against it. It must be condemned in the strongest terms and those who commit this type of evil must and will be punished to the fullest extent of the law.”

He said work must be done every day to ensure Ontario is a “safe and inclusive home” for everyone.

“Because through this incident we have come face-to-face with the face that too many Canadians still live under the threat of racism and discrimination,” he said.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called the attack a “heinous and horrible act of terror” that “stripped from us a beautiful family.”

“This act of terror was committed with the purpose of driving fear into the hearts of the Muslim community,” he said. “So I want to say to my sisters that wear a hijab, to my brothers that wrap their head – we will not cower in fear.

“We will wear our turbans, our hijabs with pride because we are proud of who we are, we will not let terror win.”

Singh called for “real action,” saying all Canadians share a “collective responsibility” to combat racism and Islamophobia.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said the community suffered a “profound loss,” and called on politicians to work “across party lines” to “end the kind of violence and hatred that took these lives.”

“This was an attack on a family walking together in their community,” he said. “The actual family was entitled to the same security, the same freedom from fear and the same freedom to worship as every Canadian, and we have to commit ourselves to making sure it is a reality for all Canadians.”

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Mustafa Farooq, the chief executive officer of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, called the attack an act of terror, and called on the government for a national summit on ending Islamophobia on an emergency basis.

Nusaiba Al-Azem, who serves as second vice-chair at the London Muslim Mosque, said the vigil was being held “chiefly by and for our community for our collective grief, and for our collective support.”

She added, though, that “at the end of the day, this event happened because of pervasive and structural Islamophobia, which is perpetuated in a systemic manner.”

Mosque Imam Aarij Anwer said the Afzaal family was part of the “fabric of the congregation.”

“We will honour their legacy, we will cherish them,” he said. The mosque, he said, was providing access to grief counselling.

“Don’t let this terrorize you,” he said. “This is a deep scar, it will take time to heal.”

-With files from the Canadian Press

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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