Skip to main content

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes part in a moment of silence in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill on June 8, 2021, in recognition of the recent tragedy in London, Ontario.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has denounced a fatal hit-and-run incident that left four members of a Muslim family dead in the southwestern Ontario city of London as a “terrorist attack, motivated by hatred” that should rally all Canadians to counter hate.

In Parliament on Tuesday, Mr. Trudeau was the first among party leaders to speak to what police have described as a deliberate incident Sunday in which a 20-year-old man drove his pickup truck onto a sidewalk, and struck five members of a family out for a walk, killing four.

“Their lives were taken in a brutal, cowardly and brazen act of violence. This killing was no accident. This was a terrorist attack, motivated by hatred, in the heart of one of our communities,” said Mr. Trudeau.

He named four of the victims, all members of the Afzaal family. They were, said the Prime Minister, Salman, 46, and his 44-year-old wife, Madiha, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna, 15, and nine-year-old son Fayaz. The fifth was Salman’s 74-year-old mother, whom the Prime Minister did not name.

Only Fayaz survived, and is in hospital with serious injuries.

A statement issued on behalf of relatives and confirmed by family friend Saboor Khan gave the names of the dead.

“We all hope that that little boy will be able to heal from his injuries quickly even though we know he will have to live a very long time with the sadness, anger and incomprehension caused by this cowardly, Islamophobic attack,” said Mr. Trudeau.

Shortly after the collision, Nathaniel Veltman was arrested by police in a shopping mall parking lot, seven kilometres away from the scene of the hit and run, after a chase. The 20-year-old faces four charges of first-degree murder and one of attempted murder.

London Police Chief Steve Williams said Monday that police believe the act was intentional and the victims were targeted because of their Islamic faith.

Mr. Trudeau said that, unfortunately, the incident is not isolated, and cited such incidents as the 2017 mosque shooting in Quebec City that left six dead and five injured, the death of Mohammed Aslam Zafis at a Toronto mosque and violent attacks against Black Muslim women in Edmonton.

“They were all targeted because of their Muslim faith. This is happening here in Canada, and it has to stop,” he told the House.

Mr. Trudeau said hate, whether small incidents – ”the jokes that are not funny” – or more obvious, must be called out. “We cannot allow any form of hate to take root because the consequences can be far too serious,” he said.

“Mr. Speaker, if anyone thinks racism and hatred don’t exist in this country, I want to say this: How do we explain such violence to a child in a hospital?”

He said the government will continue to fund initiatives such as the Security Infrastructure Program to protect communities at risk, fight hate online and offline, and take more action to dismantle far-right hate groups, as he noted the government did with the Proud Boys by adding them to Canada’s terror listing.

Other party leaders spoke after Mr. Trudeau.

“Our first duty as political leaders is to ensure the security of our citizens,” said Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole. “To ensure that Canadians can be free to live, work and pray as they wish.”

“There’s a nine-year-old boy lying in a hospital bed, “Mr. O’Toole said. “We have to strive to be better. The Canada of his future needs to be better.”

Yves-Francois Blanchet, leader of the Bloc Quebecois, also referenced how the attack in London echoed the January, 2017, attack in Quebec City.

“We can’t allow these things to happen over and over again and do nothing other than offer our condolences and our tears,” Blanchet said in French. “This must stop now.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh noted that some people have said “this is not our Canada,” but added, “The reality is, this is our Canada. Our Canada is a place of racism, of violence, of genocide of Indigenous people, and our Canada is a place where Muslims aren’t safe.”

Green Party Leader Annamie Paul said “hate has been on the rise in Canada,” in an e-mailed statement released by the party.

“It is the duty of our governments to identify, expose and root out supremacist movements,” it read. Former Green Party leader Elizabeth May also spoke in Parliament. “We’ve been holding a mirror up to ourselves for some time now, and it’s hard to like what we see,” she said.

Mr. Trudeau, Mr. O’Toole, Mr. Singh and Ms. Paul were all scheduled to travel to London on Tuesday for an evening vigil at the mosque in the community.

Know what is happening in the halls of power with the day’s top political headlines and commentary as selected by Globe editors (subscribers only). Sign up today.