By: Laura Steiner
London Ontario Police are investigating a potential hate crime that happened June 6, 2021. At around 8:40 p.m. a speeding truck mounted a curb and hit five members of the same family as they walked in the Hyde Park and South Carriage Road area of the city. Media reports are identifying the victims as Salman Afzaal 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, their 15 year old daughter Yumna Afzaal, and, and Salman’s 74-year old mother. 9-year old Fayez remains in hospital with non life-threatening injuries.
Police stopped the truck at 8:45 p.m. 7km away from the accident scene in a mall parking lot. The suspect identified as 20-year old Nathaniel Veltman has been charged with four counts of first degree murder, and one count of attempted murder. There is no known previous connection between the victims and the suspect. Police believe the family was targeted because of their Islamic faith. They are pursuing evidence that the act was motivated by hate.
London police have set up a tip line. Anyone with information is asked to call: 519-661-5515 ext 5814 or Crime Stoppers at: 1-800-222-TIPS (8477)
Reaction from Canadian Leaders
Canadian politicians were swift to react. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called it a terrorist attack in parliament. “This killing was no accident. This was a terrorist attack motivated by hatred, in the heart of one of our communities,” he said. It has not been officially designated a terrorist attack by the RCMP, but they have reached out to help London police in their investigation.
Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole challenged Canadians to be better in a statement that focused on the nine-year old in hospital. “The Canada of his future needs to be better than the Canada of Sunday evening. He deserves a Canada where his family can for a walk on a tranquil Sunday evening. He deserves a Canada where he can go to a mosque and not worry about his safety.” NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh addressed the anger towards the situation. “To think that a family going for a walk couldn’t make it home. To think that a casual walk around the block in our neighborhood would be one’s last. To think you can’t walk safely down your own street,” Singh said. Ontario Premier Doug Ford tweeted his statement yesterday. “Hate and Islamophobia have no place in Ontario. Justice must be served for the horrific act of hatred that took place in London.”
The Town of Milton posted a statement via social media condemning the attack. “We stand in solidarity and send our condolences to the family, the Muslim community in London, and across Canada,” it said. Halton Regional Police Service (HRPS) Chief Steve Tanner tweeted his support for the Muslim community. “Hate has no place, and will not be tolerated. The HRPS will do all we can in support of our Muslim community and partners, and all citizens as we grieve together for the family lost.
The HRPS will do all we can in support of our Muslim community and partners,and all citizens,as we grieve together for the family lost. @aqmufti @MuslimAdvocates @MayorRobBurton @CouncillorKnoll @HaltonPolice @MariannMeedWard @RickBonnette1 @TownOfMiltonON
— Chief Steve Tanner (@ChiefTanner) June 8, 2021
There is vigil scheduled for tonight at the London mosque. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is scheduled to attend. Premier Doug Ford has passed legislation that will allow for the gathering. There is a GoFundme campaign set up for the family. It is currently up to $400,271 of a $500,000 goal.