Police accuse Nathaniel Veltman of overthrowing a Muslim family in London, Ontario, “because of their Islamic faith.”
A man accused of overthrowing a Muslim family in the Canadian city of London, Ont., This month, killing four people including a teenage girl, now faces terrorism charges, authorities said on Monday.
The London Police Department said in a declaration that Nathaniel Veltman’s four counts of first degree murder “constitute terrorism offenses” and that federal and provincial prosecutors had agreed to prosecute for terrorism.
Veltman is accused of deliberately hitting five members of the Afzaal family with a van while they were driving around on June 6.
Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife of 44 years Madiha Salman, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna and her 74-year-old grandmother Talat Afzaal were killed in the attack, while the couple’s nine-year-old son was killed. been seriously injured.
Veltman also faces one count of attempted murder, which authorities say also constitutes “terrorist activity”.
The 20-year-old, who filed a brief in court on Monday via video, has yet to plead.
Police said Veltman attacked the family “because of their Islamic faith”.
The attack rocked Muslim communities across Canada, who for years have called for action to fight Islamophobia and bigotry, especially following a deadly shooting at a Quebec mosque in January 2017. .
Saboor Khan, a family friend, told the Associated Press news agency that raising the charges against Veltman was “the right thing to do.”
“The family and the community have been terrified and many of us are afraid to leave our homes,” Khan said.
The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), a national advocacy group, said on Monday the terrorism charges were “a significant development,” but would comment further later.
Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland also responded to the new accusations, saying: “It is really important for us to label it as a terrorist act… and it is important for us to identify the terrible threat that supremacy white weighs in on Canada and Canadians. “
A funeral of the Afzaal family drew hundreds of mourners to the Islamic Center of Southwestern Ontario over the weekend.
Raza Bashir Tarar, Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Canada, said during Saturday’s service that the whole nation of Pakistan – where the family was from – “stand side by side with you in this hour of mourning, in this moment when our hearts bleed because of the atrocity that has befallen this wonderful and wonderful family ”.
Thousands of supporters too walked from the location where the family was killed in a mosque 7 km (4.4 miles) away.
Yet many members of Canada’s Muslim community remain frightened. Selma Tobah, a 31-year-old graduate student who lives in London, told Al Jazeera last week that many in the community felt like “it could have been any of us.”
Calls for concrete action to eradicate Islamophobia are also increasing.
The NCCM last week called on the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to hold a National Action Summit on Islamophobia “to chart the course for Canada to end violence against Muslims.”
The country’s Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth, Bardish Chagger, responded to the call on Friday, saying the government “will organize a series of summits, including a national summit on Islamophobia to coordinate actions futures ”.
Veltman’s next court date is scheduled for June 21.