Nearly two days after four members of a Muslim family in London, Ont., were killed in what police described as a targeted and hate-motivated act, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called it a “terrorist attack.”
Trudeau spoke in the House of Commons on Tuesday, calling the attack “a brutal, cowardly, and brazen act of violence.”
“This was no accident,” he said. “This was a terrorist attack, motivated by hatred, in the heart of one of our communities.”
On Sunday evening, police said a pickup truck, driven by a 20-year-old London man, mounted a curb, and struck the family of five as they were out for an evening walk, and then drove away.
Police have not released the names of the victims, but a statement released by the family late Monday identifies them as Salman Afzaal, 46, his 44-year-old wife Madiha Salman, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Salman and Afzaal’s 74-year-old mother.
The couple’s nine-year-old son Fayez was seriously injured but is expected to survive.
Nathaniel Veltman has been arrested and charged with murder in the attack.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also addressed the attack, saying “our Canada is a place where Muslims are not safe.”
“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,” he said.
“To Muslim Canadians, I’m so sorry you have to live like this, that you have to live in fear.”
He added that the threat to Muslim Canadians’ safety stems from extreme right-wing ideology, online hate and politicians’ use of Islamophobia for political gain.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole turned much of his attention to the nine-year-old boy who survived the attack. He said Canadians need to “strive to learn and be better.”
“We need to find a solution because there’s a nine-year-old boy lying in a hospital bed,” he said.
“The Canada of his future needs to be better than the Canada of Sunday evening. He deserves a Canada where his family can go 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.”
Trudeau said that he spoke Monday with the mayor of London and representatives of the local Muslim community, to express his condolences and discuss the urgency of how to keep communities safe across the country.
This includes, “more action to dismantle far-right hate groups, like what we did with the Proud Boys by adding them to Canada’s terror list,” he said.
Ali Chahbar, a lawyer living in London, Ont., took to Twitter Tuesday morning, calling the attack an “indescribable tragedy.”
He later told Global News, that when “people describe the attack as ‘unthinkable'”, it may come across as having well-meaning, but “for myself and many Muslims in this country, it is not unthinkable.”
“For the Muslim community, it is very thinkable, we think about it all the time. Every time we walk into a mosque on Friday I’d be lying to you if I didn’t think about New Zealand, the mosque shooting there … that you may walk in and be carried out.”
He said for as a born Londoner, for the first time, he is “forced to contemplate the reality that these things do happen here.”
A vigil is scheduled for Tuesday night at the mosque of the five family members at the London Muslim Mosque.
Trudeau and all of the other federal party leaders will be in attendance at the vigil.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet will travel to London on the Prime Minister’s plane.
Singh and Green Party Leader Annamie Paul will also be in attendance.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford is also expected to be present.