Vigil for victims of London, Ont. vehicle attack held at Ottawa Human Rights Monument
OTTAWA -- A vigil to mourn the deaths of four Muslim family members who were killed by a driver in London, Ont., in what police have called an intentional, hate-motivated incident, was held at Ottawa's Human Rights Monument on Elgin Street Tuesday evening.
The Canadian Council of Muslim Women Ottawa and other members of the Ottawa-Gatineau Muslim community organized the vigil.
It began at 7 p.m. at the Human Rights Monument at Elgin and Lisgar. Hundreds of residents were in attendance.
Zia and Naaz Nathoo brought their sons to help them understand what happened.
"We are here to honour the family and to teach our children they don't have to fear living in Canada," Naaz Nathoo said.
"To be here and for them to see it, it explains their questions and gives them the answers they need," said Zia Nathoo.
The Nathoos say this act of terror does not represent the Canada they know and the people who gathered in solidarity Tuesday evening are the true face of the community.
"It feels good its good to see the different backgrounds of people here," Zia said. "Nomatter what your colour is, your race, your religion, where you are from, how old you are, what gender you are, it really does not matter."
But not everyone feels unafraid. Maryan Refai, whose family knew the victims' family, thinks Canada has to change to make everyone feel safe.
"To be honest, I don’t always feel safe in Canada. I'm always cautious and looking around, especially when I’m the only person of colour in the room," Refai said.
The former Western University student lived near where the Afzaal family was killed.
"It was heartbreaking. I cried. I was so upset. It feels like a punch in my heart when I see things like this happen it affects me as if it was my own family," she said.
A driver in a pickup truck struck the family Sunday evening in London while they were out for a walk, and all but one of them were killed. A statement released to the media by a family spokesperson names the deceased as Salman Afzaal, his wife Madiha, their daughter Yumna and Salman's mother. Nine-year-old Fayez Afzaal survived the attack and "is on the road to recovery from serious injuries," the statement reads.
The victims are being remembered as pillars of the London community, who attended mosque regularly, volunteered, and were kind and helpful to everyone.
Speaking in the House of Commons Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau referred to the incident as a terrorist attack. Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford attended a vigil in London Tuesday evening.
- If you need mental health support following the news of this attack in London, Ont., you can find links and phone numbers to support services here.
Nathaniel Veltman, 20, is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder. During a news conference Monday afternoon, London police confirmed that there was evidence that the incident was hate-motivated and the family was targeted because they were Muslim.
Police also said Monday that they were not aware of any connections between Veltman and the Afzaal family, nor were they aware of any link between the suspect and organized hate groups.
As speakers at the Ottawa vigil took turns denouncing anti-Muslim hatred, one message was clear, that nine-year-old Fayez Afzaal would not be alone.
"You have lost a mother, father, sister, and grandmother, but you have gained millions who will support you and be part of your family now," Naaz Nathoo said.