Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau identified four members of a Muslim family killed in a “premeditated” attack on Sunday.
Madiha Salman, 44, her husband Salman Afzaal, 46, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Afzaal and Mr Afzaal’s mother, 74, were hit by a vehicle during an evening walk in London, Ontario.
Mr. Trudeau condemned the attack as a terrorist act.
The couple’s nine-year-old son survived and is in hospital with injuries.
The attack was the worst against Canadian Muslims since six people were killed in a mosque in Quebec City in 2017.
A 20-year-old Canadian was charged with four charges of murder and one of attempted murder.
Police said the family is believed to have been targeted because of their Muslim faith. Authorities are evaluating potential terrorism charges for what they think is a hate crime.
Speaking in the Canadian House of Commons on Tuesday, Trudeau denied “a hate-driven terrorist attack in the heart of one of our communities.”
“If anyone thinks that racism and hatred don’t exist in this country, I want to say this: how do we explain such violence to a hospitalized child? How can we look families in the eye and say: ‘Islamophobia is not real’? “he said.
A vigil has been organized on Thursday night at a London mosque attended by the family.
Who are the victims?
Three generations of the Afzaal family were killed during an evening walk on Sunday. Five family members were waiting to cross a cross section along London’s Hyde Park Road when the truck hit the curb and hit them, police said.
Family and friends told CBC News that the family was deeply involved in their community and committed to their faith.
After graduating from London Islamic School last year, 15-year-old Yumna was in ninth grade at Oakridge High School.
In Oakridge, Yumna was to become a grade 10 representative in the Muslim Student Association, the institution’s president told CBC.
Yumna’s mother, Ms. Salman, had recently completed a bachelor’s degree in civil and environmental engineering from the University of the West in London, according to her LinkedIn page. It aimed to work on solving “geo-environmental problems” and “contributing to the restoration of our natural environment”.
Salman Afzaal was “humble” and loyal to his community, a friend told CBC.
Mr Afzaal’s 74-year-old mother’s name has not yet been released.
The couple’s nine-year-old son was the only surviving family member present. He is seriously injured in hospital.
What’s behind the attack?
Police called alleged assailant Nathanial Veltman, 20, of London, Ontario. He was arrested without incident at a shopping mall about 6km from the crime scene.
It is not yet known whether the suspects have links to hate groups, said Detective Supt Waight.
“There is no known prior connection between the suspect and the victims,” Det Supt Waight said, adding that the suspect wore a vest that looked “like armor”.
Police said Mr Veltman had no previous convictions.
Officials added that there was good weather and high visibility conditions when the black truck was seen climbing onto the sidewalk on Hyde Park Road at about 8:40 pm local time on Sunday.
A witness told CTV News he needed to protect his young daughter’s eyes from the bodies.
“There were people everywhere and running,” Paige Martin said. “Citizens were trying to direct emergency vehicles where to go. There were lots of signs and shouting and waving their arm.”
A 2016 census found that London, a city about 200 km (125 miles) southwest of Toronto, is becoming increasingly diverse. One in five people are born outside of Canada, with Arabs being the largest minority group in the area and South Asians second.
“Cruel and cowardly law”
Trudeau addressed parliament following the attack, describing “an act of cruel, cowardly and brazen violence”.
The author “does not represent us as Canadians,” the prime minister said, but rejected the idea that this type of violence is not “Canadian” – a sentiment echoed by Canadian opposition leaders.
“We must face it: this hatred exists in our country,” Trudeau said.
The Mayor of London Ed Holder was among those who paid tribute to the victims, stating: “This was an act of mass murder, committed against Muslims, against Londoners and rooted in inhuman hatred.
Mayor Holder said he spoke “on behalf of everyone from London when I say our hearts are broken”.
“We are sorry for the family, three generations of whom are now dead.”
The mayor’s statement added that he had ordered the flag down outside London’s City Hall for three days of mourning.
This is not the first time members of the Muslim community in Canada have attacked.
In January 2017, a Canadian man fatally shot six people at Quebec’s Islamic Cultural Center and seriously injured five others. The author was sentenced to life in prison.
Canada’s deadliest vehicle ramming attack occurred in 2018 when a self-described “incel” (involuntary celibate) hit a group of pedestrians in Toronto with its van, killing 10 people.