'Let us remember their names': Legislature vigil honours Afzaal family, denounces Islamophobia

A prayer was held Wednesday evening at the Alberta legislature for the Afzaal family, four of whom were killed in the attack in London, Ont.

"For the Muslim community, there was a need to get together. There was a need to come as one," Al Rashid Mosque's outreach imam Sadique Pathan told CTV News Edmonton.  

The pain in the Muslim community, and broader public, had been palpable, he said.

"When we're together, there's the power in numbers and joining our hearts and really beating as one, healing as one."

He led the service on the government grounds. Dozens of people attended in honour of Salman Afzaal, his wife Madiha Salman, their daughter Yumna, and Salman Afzaal's mother, as well as the couple's surviving son, nine-year-old Fayez.

Police allege the family was out for a walk when Nathaniel Veltman, a 20-year-old London resident, mounted a curb in a pickup truck and struck them.

The suspected hate-motivated attack has sent ripples of shock and horror across the country, especially amongst Muslim Canadians.

"I am indebted to this country for everything I am and who I am," Pathan said, recalling his parents moved to Canada in the 70s. "However, the reality also is racism has become part of this country's fabric and to minimize it or to romanticize it or to simply say this is a one-off thing, or there is simply a few people that hate, is minimizing the concerted efforts of those who are hating. They are organized."

Pathan pointed to the discovery of children's bodies beneath a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C., as evidence of the continuity between the two tragedies.

"White supremacy was called colonialism and we simply gave it a different name," Pathan commented.

"The very people who wish to do wrong to Muslims, in this case, are the same people who are trying to be intimidating to any other minority group. Which is silence them, marginalize them, and make them disappear. So this was one way of saying we're not doing any of that and we will unite, and we will unite in goodness."

He believes change can start at a grassroots level, with Canadians standing beside their Muslim neighbours in solidarity. But the greater change, he said, needs to happen across political, judicial, social and educational institutions, beginning with a national summit on Islamophobia.

In the meantime, Pathan said, "Let us remember their names. Let us not forget – and let us also for a moment reflect that there are still 215 children with no names."

Veltman is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder in connection to Sunday's attack.

With files from CTV Edmonton's Touria Izri