LONDON, Canada: Police in the Canadian province of Ontario says a driver intentionally struck a family because they were Muslim, killing four people and seriously injuring a nine-year-old boy in what has been denounced as an “act of unspeakable hatred” and Islamophobia.
The victims, all members of the same family, were hit on Sunday evening while waiting to cross a street in the city of London, about 200 kilometres southwest of Toronto, Canadian news outlets 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 seriously injured and was admitted to a hospital. Local authorities did not release the names of the victims.
“There is evidence that this was a planned, premeditated act motivated by hate. It is believed these victims were targeted because they were Muslim,” London Police Service Superintendent Paul Waight said during a news conference, as reported by CityNews.
The attack came amid rising concerns about Islamophobic attacks in provinces across Canada and widespread calls for authorities to tackle racism, hate-motivated violence and the prevalence of far-right groups.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “horrified” by what he described as an “act of hatred”, and said his thoughts were with the victims’ loved ones, including the young boy who survived.
“To the Muslim community in London and to Muslims across the country, know that we stand with you. Islamophobia has no place in any of our communities. This hate is insidious and despicable – and it must stop,” Trudeau tweeted.
A 20-year-old suspect identified as Nathaniel Veltman has been arrested, local police said in a statement earlier on Monday. He has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder, Global News reported.
I’m horrified by the news from London, Ontario. To 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 remains in hospital – our hearts go out to you, and you will be in our thoughts as you recover.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) June 7, 2021
“There is no known previous connection between the suspect and the victims,” Waight said.
Qazi Khalil, a friend of the family, told The Canadian Press news agency that he last saw them on Thursday. “This has totally destroyed me from the inside,” Khalil said. “I can’t really come to the terms they were no longer here.”
The National Council of Canadian Muslims, a national advocacy group, said it was “beyond horrified” 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 considering terrorist charges,” the group’s CEO, Mustafa Farooq, said in a statement on Monday.
“This loss of a family, the loss of a child in our community because of Islamophobia – this is a sorrow that will run deep for a long time. But let that sorrow be the ground where we stand for justice and stand for change.”
Saddened to learn of the killing of a Muslim Pakistani-origin Canadian family in London, Ontario. This condemnable act of terrorism reveals the growing Islamophobia in Western countries. Islamophonia needs to be countered holistically by the international community.
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) June 8, 2021
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday condemned the killing of Pakistani-Canadian Muslim family, calling it an act of terrorism.
Taking to Twitter, Khan said he is saddened to learn about the death of the family and urged the international community to be aware of growing Islamophobia in the Western world.
On Monday, a 20-year-old man driving a pick-up truck slammed into and killed four members of a Muslim family in the south of Canada’s Ontario province.