'Islamophobia is real': Manitoba leaders condemn deadly vehicle attack in Ontario

Mourners place flowers at the scene of a hate-motivated vehicle attack in London, Ont. on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Geoff Robins)

Manitoba leaders are paying tribute to the family killed in a vehicle attack in London, Ont.

Four family members were killed in the attack on Sunday, with police saying they were targeted due to their Muslim faith.

The family members have been identified as Salman Afzaal, his wife Madiha, their daughter Yumna and Salman’s mother. Fayez Afzaal, 9, survived the attack and is recovering from serious injuries.

Premier Brian Pallister and Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman took to social media to condemn the attack.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Muslim community and the family and friends who are impacted by this tragedy,” the premier said.

Pallister wrote that he is deeply saddened by the Islamophobic attack.

“There is no place for such hate in Canada,” he said.

Deeply saddened by the news of an Islamophobic attack that took place in London, Ontario.

There is no place for such hate in Canada.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Muslim community and the family and friends who are impacted by this tragedy.

— Brian Pallister (@BrianPallister) June 8, 2021

Bowman tweeted that his thoughts and prayers are with those affected by this act of hate, adding that Winnipeg stands with Muslim residents in the city and across Canada.

“Islamophobia is real in Canada,” he said. “And, sadly, it has deadly consequences.”

Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by this act of hate. Winnipeg stands with Muslim residents here & across Canada. The #WinnipegSign will be dimmed tonight. pic.twitter.com/BD9qmPQy6Z

— Mayor Brian Bowman (@Mayor_Bowman) June 7, 2021

At a news conference on Tuesday, NDP Leader Wab Kinew called the crime “horrific” and expressed his solidarity and support with the Muslim community.

“What was perpetrated in London was an act of terror,” he said.

“It should be treated with the utmost of seriousness and if these allegations are proven then it should be treated as a terrorism case.”

He said there also needs to be justice at a societal and systemic level by combatting Islamophobia and hatred in all forms.

Manitoba’s Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont released a statement expressing shock and grief over the “crime driven by hate.”

“First and foremost, we must strive to remember how each person lived—what they gave to each other and the community, their faces and their character,” the statement says.

“Each person we lost was part of the human family to which we all belong. They were Canadian—friends, family, co-workers, neighbours. This is not the action of a single individual: the “unspeakable” hatred that led to their deaths is spoken and shared all the time online.”

Lamont adds that Islamophobia has no place in Canada, and that everyone needs to stand firmly against racism.

Chief Danny Smyth of the Winnipeg Police Service said in a statement that the police service stands with the Islamic community, and lends its voice, support, and strength, “because they are part of our community, our city and our country.”

He said if anyone sees anything unusual, they should tell someone so the information gets to the appropriate people who can intervene.

“As a police officer and the head of the police service I do this because it is my duty; but more importantly I do this as a friend, and friends support and protect one another,” Smyth said.

Nathaniel Veltman, 20, has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder in connection with the attack. None of the charges have been proven in court.

- With files from CTV's Ryan Flanagan.