Canada Terror charges laid against man accused in London attack against Muslim family
The latest news developments on the fatal attack in London, Ont.
The latest news on the vehicle attack in London, Ont., that killed four members of a Muslim family and seriously injured a nine-year-old boy on Sunday (all times eastern): --- 9 p.m. Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole says reports that a vehicle attack that killed four people in London, Ont., was motivated by the fact the victims were Muslim is "horrific and heartbreaking." In a series of social media posts, O'Toole expressed his deepest---
A vehicle attack against a Muslim family in southwestern Ontario that left four dead and one seriously injured was an act of terrorism, prosecutors argued Monday as they upgraded the charges against the man accused in the incident.
Twenty-year-old Nathaniel Veltman had been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder in the June 6 incident in London, Ont., which police have called an act motivated by hate against the Islamic faith.
Federal Crown Sarah Shaikh said Monday prosecutors were going ahead with terrorism proceedings after receiving consent from the country's attorney general.
Muslim family ID'd in fatal truck attack in London, Ont., known for commitment to community
The Muslim family identified as the victims of a hit and run Sunday in what police are calling a hate-motivated attack in London, Ont., were deeply involved in the community and committed to their faith, friends and family say. Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Afzaal and Salman Afzaal's 74-year-old mother were killed after a black truck slammed into them as they took an evening walk. The victims' names were confirmed to CBC News by family members. CBC has not been able to confirm the name of Salman Afzaal's mother.
"Mr. Veltman, you are now charged with four counts of first-degree murder," Shaikh said in virtual court. "In addition to the allegation that these murders were planned and deliberate, the further allegation is that they also constitute terrorism offences."
Veltman, who has yet to retain a lawyer, said he understood the charges.
"In addition to the allegation that these murders were planned and deliberate, the further allegation is that they also constitute terrorism offences."
Salman Afzaal, 46, his 44-year-old wife Madiha Salman, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna and her 74-year-old grandmother, Talat Afzaal were killed when while out for an evening walk. A black pickup truck veered onto the sidewalk into the family and fled the scene, police said.
Terror charges so soon after London attack would be unprecedented: experts
The killing of four members of a Muslim family in London, Ont., on Sunday has been denounced as an act of terrorism by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, but it's possible the terrorism label will never be reflected in the charges faced by the accused. Legal experts say it's probably too early for terror charges to be laid because investigators need sufficient evidence of motive. But the experts also expressed concern that prosecutors in Canada usually reserve terror charges for people with Islamist extremist views, which they say sends the message the law isn't being applied equally.
The couple's nine-year-old son, Fayez, was seriously injured but is expected to recover.
London police allege the incident was a planned and premeditated attack targeting Muslims, but have not explained how they came to that conclusion.
Saboor Khan, a friend of the family, said upgrading the charges against Veltman was "the right thing to do."
"The family and the community has been terrorized and many of us are afraid to leave our homes," Khan said.
"It has changed everything — just the randomness of it and the fact that we all live in this very diverse neighbourhood — it's just not a comfortable time right now."
Over the weekend, hundreds of mourners attended the funeral for the Afzaal family. Their son remained in hospital and was unable to attend.
Khan said the boy was "managing OK," and was surrounded by the love and support of his extended family.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland applauded the new charges during a news conference Monday morning.
Sask. Muslim community in 'undeniable shock and horror' after Ontario attack
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses a crowd in London, Ont., Tuesday evening at a vigil in honour of the Muslim family killed in what police say was a premeditated attack.
“I think it is really important for us to name it as an act of terror," she said. "It is important for us to identify this as an act of Islamophobia and it is important for us to identify the terrible threat that white supremacism poses to Canada and to Canadians."
Shaikh told court the first-degree murder charges were laid under a subset of section 231 of the Criminal Code, which reads:
"Irrespective of whether a murder is planned and deliberate on the part of a person, murder is first-degree murder when the death is caused by that person while committing or attempting to commit an indictable offence under this or any other Act of Parliament if the act or omission constituting the offence also constitutes a terrorist activity."
Police said last week there was no known link to any hate group.
Yellow London Taxi said last week that one of its drivers called 911 after a man in a black pickup truck drove into a parking lot and asked the cabbie to call police because he "had killed someone."
The taxi driver said the man had swastikas on his T-shirt and was wearing a military-style helmet and what appeared to be an armoured vest.
Veltman's next court date is scheduled for June 21.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 14, 2021.
Liam Casey, The Canadian Press
Jarvis: How do you tell a nine-year-old boy that his whole family has been wiped out because they're Muslim? .
They were out for a stroll on a warm spring evening on a normal day in a normal Canadian city. And they were mowed down — the mother, father, sister, brother and grandmother, three generations — by a man who police allege deliberately drove his pickup truck into them. Now, Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, daughter Yumna Afzaal, 15, and mother, 74 are dead, and nine-year-old Fayez is orphaned. All because they’re Muslim. How do you And they were mowed down — the mother, father, sister, brother and grandmother, three generations — by a man who police allege deliberately drove his pickup truck into them.