B.C. Muslim community leader calls for crackdown on Islamophobia in wake of deadly Ontario attack
'The young man who did this, he's not alone,' says Al Jamia Masjid mosque trustee
As Canadians across the country continue to mourn in the wake of a deadly vehicle attack in London, Ont., on Sunday that killed four members of the same Muslim family, a leader in the British Columbia Muslim community is calling for action.
Haroon Khan, a trustee with the Al Jamia Masjid mosque in Vancouver, says it was an act of terror, fuelled by Islamophobia, that killed Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Afzaal and Salman Afzaal's 74-year-old mother after a truck slammed into them while they were out for an evening walk.
The youngest member of the family, Fayez, 9, survived and remained in hospital Tuesday in serious condition.
That truck was driven by Nathanial Veltman, 20, of London, who is facing four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.
Khan is calling on politicians and law enforcement to work harder to crack down on individuals and white supremacy groups that encourage such violent activity.
"The fact that there are other people out there with that same type of ideology of hate in our country ... we must go after these groups. We have to identify them. We have to isolate them ... and we have to prosecute them," said Khan, speaking Tuesday on CBC's The Early Edition
WATCH | Mourners at a Vancouver mosque try to come to grips with a senseless act of violence:
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau explicitly called the attack an act of terror in the House of Commons Tuesday.
"This killing was no accident. This was a terrorist attack," Trudeau said in a speech.
He vowed to redouble the government's efforts to dismantle "far-right hate groups" and said his government will do more to root out groups that continue to threaten public safety.
The federal government will also fund the Communities at Risk: Security Infrastructure Program, a federal initiative that flows funds to communities that face hate-motivated crimes, Trudeau said.
The program gives money to community centres, schools and places of worship to take steps to better protect themselves from hate crimes.
Khan said not only has the attack in London caused anguish and anger for Canadian Muslims, it has also struck fear.
"I would never think, in my right mind, that a family, or my family, would be targeted simply by being identified as Muslim," said Khan, a sixth generation Canadian.
"We have to actually be very aware of our surroundings because the young man who did this, he's not alone," he added. "We will not stand for it and we will defend ourselves. We will defend ourselves."
Mustafa Farooq, CEO of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, who joined Khan on CBC Radio Tuesday, called for an emergency national summit with federal, territorial, provincial and municipal leaders to address violence and Islamophobia.
WATCH | Mustafa Farooq asks, 'How does this keep happening and what do we do next?':
"This is not just a moment for coming together and holding each other tight, this is a time to stop this from happening again, said Farooq.
"This is not a London, Ontario problem. This is not a Quebec City problem. This is a Canada problem. And we need to deal with it as a Canada problem," he added.
Islamophobic attacks are nothing new in Canada, says Yusuf Serag with the B.C. Muslim Association.
"Here, locally in B.C., some of my own female friends have had their head scarves pulled, been attacked, been punched," he told CBC News.
"It's been a long, few years for our community dealing with Islamophobia, online hate, real world violence."
On Tuesday afternoon, B.C. Premier John Horgan and Rachna Singh, the parliamentary secretary for anti-racism initiatives, issued a joint statement reacting to the attack.
"Make no mistake: hate kills," said the statement. "It takes all of our collective voices to stand in solidarity against anti-Muslim hate in any of its forms."
For Khan, there is another cause that also needs a collective effort.
"We all have to rally around that young man who is the sole survivor of that family," he said. "That family is emblematic of all of our families. That boy is our boy."
With files from The Early Edition, John Paul Tasker, Kate Dubinski and Eva Uguen-Csenge