London attack in 2021 | Attack undermined victims’ faith in Canada

(London) Other relatives of Muslim family members killed by a white supremacist in London, Ont., addressed the court during a sentencing hearing Friday. Some said the attack undermined their faith in a “Canada, land of tolerance.”

Nathaniel Veltman, 23, was convicted in November of four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder for mowing down the Afzaal family, who were taking a leisurely stroll one evening in June, with his pickup truck. 2021.

The trial had previously been held in Windsor, but sentencing proceedings, including “victim impact statements”, are now taking place in London, the site of the attack.

Through dozens of heartbreaking statements from the victims of this tragedy, the Afzaals remained in the memory of their loved ones in Canada and abroad as warm and generous people.

Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna, and 74-year-old grandmother Talat Afzaal were killed on June 6, 2021. The couple’s young son, aged nine years old, was seriously injured, but survived.

The family left Pakistan to settle in Canada in 2007.

Veltman said he targeted them with his van because based on their clothing and the beard worn by Salman Afzaal, he concluded that they were Muslims.

In a statement read to the court by the Crown, Madiha Salman’s cousin Omar Ahmed, who lives in Pakistan, said he grew up watching his relatives move to Western countries in search of better opportunities. “The American-Canadian dream was the end goal,” he told the court. But this is how the dream ends. »

Canada’s special representative on combating Islamophobia, Amira Elghawaby, is in London this week for the sentencing hearing. In a statement, she wrote that “Canada has experienced the highest number of targeted and deadly attacks against Muslims of any other G7 country.”


Canada’s Special Representative for Combating Islamophobia, Amira Elghawaby

She describes the Veltman murders as “the second mass attack against Muslims in Canada”, after the Quebec mosque massacre in 2017, which left six people dead.

“The shock, horror and dismay that Islamophobia can turn deadly is a realization that many Canadian Muslims have struggled with for years,” Elghawaby. “Hate against any Canadian poses a direct threat to the safety and security of all Canadians. »

Terrorism law

The Veltman trial was the first first-degree murder trial in the country to put Canadian terrorism laws before a jury.

Judge Renee Pomerance, who presided over the trial, told jurors last fall that they could find Veltman guilty of first-degree murder if they unanimously agreed that prosecutors had established that the defendant had he intended to kill the victims and that he had premeditated and planned his attack.

But she also told jurors they could reach the same verdict of first-degree murder if they believed the killings constituted “terrorist activity.”

The “terrorism” component does not constitute a separate charge and juries in Canada are not allowed to explain how they reached their verdict. It is therefore unclear what role – if any – the terrorism allegations may have played in their decision to convict him of first-degree murder.

On the other hand, Judge Pomerance may raise this issue as part of the sentencing process to impose on Veltman.

Prosecutors argued at trial that the London attack was an act of terrorism carried out by a self-described “white supremacist.” The defense argued that Veltman did not have criminal intent to kill the victims and did not premeditate or plan the attack.

During the trial, Veltman mentioned he was influenced by the writings of a man who murdered 51 Muslim worshipers in 2019 at two New Zealand mosques.

He also said he planned to use his van, purchased a month earlier, to carry out an attack. He also said he looked up information online about what happens when pedestrians are hit by vehicles at different speeds.

He told the jury he felt an “urge” to grab the Afzaal family when he saw them walking on the sidewalk, knowing they were Muslims from their clothing — he also noticed that the man of the group had a beard.

Jurors also watched a video where Veltman admitted to an investigator that his attack was motivated by “white supremacy.” The court also heard that in a manifesto written in the weeks before the attack, he described himself as a white supremacist and peddled unfounded conspiracy theories about Muslims.


Leave a Comment