Police in the Canadian province of Ontario say a driver intentionally hit a family because she was a Muslim, killed four people and seriously injured a nine-year-old boy in what has been reported as an “indescribable act of hatred “Islamophobia.
The victims, all members of the same family, were hit on Sunday evening as they waited to cross a street in the city of London, about 200 km southwest of Toronto, Canadian media reported on Monday.
Police said the victims were two women aged 77 and 44, a 46-year-old man and a 15-year-old girl. A nine-year-old boy was also seriously injured and is recovering in hospital. Local authorities did not disclose the names of the victims.
“There is evidence that it was a planned and premeditated act motivated by hatred. It is believed that these victims were attacked because they were Muslims,” London Police Service Superintendent Paul Waight said during a press conference , how reported by CityNews.
The attack came amid growing concerns about Islamophobic attacks in provinces across Canada and widespread calls on authorities to combat racism, hate-motivated violence and the prevalence of far-right groups.
I am horrified by the news from London, Ontario. For the loved ones of those who were terrorized by yesterday’s act of hatred, we are here for you. We are also here for the child who stays in the hospital – the heart is directed to you and you will be in our thoughts as you recover.
– Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) June 7, 2021
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “horrified” by what he described as an “act of hatred” and said his thoughts were related to the victims ’loved ones, including the young man who survived. .
“To the Muslim community in London and to Muslims across the country, know that we are by your side. Islamophobia has no place in any of our communities. This hatred is insidious and despicable, and must be stopped, “tweeted Trudeau.
A 20-year-old suspect identified as Nathaniel Veltman has been arrested, local police said in a statement before Monday. He has been charged with four counts of first-degree homicide and one count of attempted homicide, Global News reported.
“No prior connection is known between the suspect and the victims,” Waight said.
“The penalty will be extended”
Qazi Khalil, a family friend, told The Canadian Press news agency that he last saw them on Thursday. “This has totally destroyed me from within,” Khalil said. “I really can’t get to terms that weren’t here anymore.”
The National Council of Canadian Muslims, a national advocacy group, said it was “beyond horrible” by the deadly attack.
“This is a terrorist attack on Canadian soil and should be treated as such. We call on the government to prosecute the attacker to the fullest extent of the law, including the consideration of terrorist charges,” he said Monday the group’s general manager, Mustafa Farooq.
“This loss of family, the loss of a child in our community due to Islamophobia, is a pain that will last for a long time. But let this punishment be the ground on which we defend justice and defend change ”.
Statistics Canada dit in March, hate crimes reported by police aimed at Muslims “increased slightly” to 181 incidents in 2019, the last year for which data are available. This exceeds the 166 incidents of the previous year.
In recent months, Muslim women in the province of Alberta have been the subject of several incidents of physical and verbal abuse.
In September, Mohamed-Aslim Zafis, 58, was fatally stabbed outside a mosque in the far west of Toronto, where he worked as a security guard. This prompted the authorities to take on the threat far-right violence more seriously and investigate the attack as be motivated by hatred.
Canada’s Muslim communities also continue to thrive a mass shooting in January 2017 to a mosque in Quebec City that killed six Muslim men and wounded several others.
Three days of mourning
The mayor of London, Ed Holder, said he ordered the flags to be lowered outside the town hall for three days of mourning. “Let me be clear: this was an act of mass murder, perpetrated against Muslims – against Londoners – and rooted in indescribable hatred,” Holder said in a statement.
“This act of unspeakable hatred, this act of Islamophobia, [sic] they must be followed by acts of compassion, kindness, empathy, solidarity – of justice – and, above all, of love ”.
Ontario Prime Minister Doug Ford also made a statement on Twitter. “Hatred and Islamophobia do NOT take place in Ontario. Justice must be done for the horrific act of hatred that took place yesterday in London (Ontario), ”he wrote.
BREAKING: The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) is beyond horror and demands justice after the horrific hate-motivated car attack on a Muslim family in London, Ontario who was out for a walk on Sunday in the evening. pic.twitter.com/o1wXqjpnRb
– NCCM (@nccm) June 7, 2021
Harjit Sajjan, Canada’s national defense minister, said he was “devastated to learn of the four Canadian Muslims killed in London, Ontario) in a despicable Islamophobic attack.”
“Three generations of families disappeared in an instant. This ubiquitous hatred is too common in our country. We must come together to end hatred in all its forms. ”
Jagmeet Singh, leader of the new opposition Democratic Party (NDP), also condemned the attack. “They were killed for their faith,” Singh wrote on Twitter. “More than ever we must resist with our Muslim family, friends and neighbors against such vile hatred. “