Canadian Muslim family of 4 run over & killed, targeted over their faith viewed as hate crime as questions are asked of Nathaniel Veltman London Ontario associations.
A 20 year old Canadian man is facing four counts of murder and one charge of attempted murder after driving his pick-up truck and fatally striking four members of a Muslim family along with leaving a nine-year-old boy with serious injuries. The attack which has been described as a hate crime occurred as the three generation family had gone out for an evening stroll this weekend.
Nathaniel Veltman, chose his victims at random and targeted them because of their faith, Ontario police said – ramming his black pickup into the family at a London intersection. Veltman who was wearing a vest, akin to ‘body armor’ was arrested immediately after in the parking lot of a nearby mall after the incident on Sunday night, and taken into custody where he now faces four counts of first degree murder and one count of attempted murder.
Three generations of a family who had immigrated from Pakistan 14 years ago were killed – a grandmother, father, mother and teenage daughter.
Despite police declining to release the names of the victims, a GoFundMe page, which has raised more than $300,000 (Canadian dollars) in two days, identified the victims as Salman Afzaal, 46, a physiotherapist and cricket lover, his wife, Madiha Salman, 44, who was in the process of working towards finishing her exams to obtain her PhD at Western University in Civil engineering, their 15-year-old daughter, Yumna Salman, in grade 9 at Oakridge Secondary School, and her grandmother, 74. The couple’s nine-year-old son Fayez Salman is in hospital with serious but non life-threatening injuries.
Police in Canada say the killing of four members of a Muslim family was a targeted hate crime.
The victims – including a teenage girl – were run over by a pick-up truck driver in London, Ontario ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/z4JUPA4KLy
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) June 8, 2021
Targeted because of their faith
Responding to the weekend incident, Nihad Awad, National Executive Director of Council American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), tweeted: ‘A boy’s whole family were killed because they were Muslim.’
Detective Supt. Paul Waight of the London Police Dept said police did not know if the suspect was a member of any specific hate group.
‘There is evidence that this was a planned, premeditated act, motivated by hate,’ the detective said.
‘We believe the victims were targeted because of their Islamic faith,’ Waight said.
Waight said London police were working with federal police and prosecutors to see about potential terrorism charges.
He declined to detail evidence pointing to a possible hate crime, but said the attack was planned.
Of note, Veltman of London was reported of not having a prior criminal record.
Islamophobia in Canada
Canada is generally welcoming toward immigrants and all religions, but in 2017 a French Canadian man known for far-right, nationalist views went on a shooting rampage at a Quebec City mosque that killed six people.
The National Council of Canadian Muslims said it was beyond horrified, saying Muslims in Canada have become all too familiar with the violence of Islamophobia.
‘This is a terrorist attack on Canadian soil, and should be treated as such,’ council head Mustafa Farooq said.
Nawaz Tahir, a London lawyer and Muslim community leader, said: ‘We must confront and stamp out Islamophobia and Islamic violence – not tomorrow, today, for the sake of our children, our family, our communities.’
By late evening on Monday, a steady stream of mourners was seen arriving near the scene of the attack, dropping off flowers and saying prayers. One placard read: ‘When does it stop? Enough.’