Montreal vigil honours Muslim family slain in Ontario while calling for end to hate
'Nobody should have to go through the pain and fear every day,' says teen attendee
When Ehab Lotayef first heard that a motorist had run over a Muslim family in London, Ont., he hoped the reports that it was a deliberate act weren't true. But as more details were released and the story developed, so too did his sorrow.
"I really felt sad — not only for the Muslim community, not only for the victims — but for us as a society, as a country," said Lotayef.
Lotayef was one of the organizers of a vigil in Montreal on Wednesday evening that drew more than 100 people, all paying tribute to the victims while also calling for an end to anti-Muslim hate and violence.
The vehicle attack on Sunday killed four members of one family and left a nine-year-old boy severely injured. Police have said they believe it was premeditated and motivated by hate.
For many Canadians, the incident stirred up memories of the 2017 mass shooting at a Quebec City mosque that left six dead and five injured.
At that time, Lotayef said, the mosque attack was seen as an isolated incident.
"We convinced ourselves that this is a one-off; we convinced ourselves that we are a better society than that," he said.
"What happened in London, Ont., now shows us that this is really not the case — that there's really something that threatens us all, that threatens the peace."
The tragedy also shows that anybody can commit a violent or hateful act at any time, he said, calling the thought "very frightening."
Solidarity against hatred, Islamophobia
Several advocacy groups — ranging from the National Council of Canadian Muslims to the Citizens' Rights Movement — were involved in organizing the vigil at Place des Arts in downtown Montreal, where people gathered and held signs that read things like, "Love For All, Hatred For None."
"Today more than ever, we must all show our solidarity against hatred in all its manifestations and against Islamophobia," said a joint statement issued to promote the event.
Sarah Derouiche, 15, attended the vigil, saying she was there to condemn all types of racism to any community and denouncing any attack that targets people based on their appearance or faith.
"Nobody should have to go through the pain and fear every day, thinking that anybody could attack us for any reason," she said.
The attack in London, Ont., killed Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, and their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Afzaal. Salman Afzaal's 74-year-old mother, Talat Afzaal, was also killed. The family was out for a stroll when struck.
The youngest member of the family, Fayez, 9, survived and remained in hospital Monday in serious condition.
For Derouiche, it hit particularly close to home, as Yumna was her age.
"All I could think was maybe it could happen to me, too," she told CBC News, her voice shaking with emotion. "That I could walk out with my family and for no other reason, somebody could decide to run me over. And it really scared me."
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned the "brutal, cowardly and brazen" attack that he said was motivated by religious hate.
"This killing was no accident. This was a terrorist attack," Trudeau told the House of Commons as he called on Canadians to put an end to such hate.
"They were all targeted because of their Muslim faith. This is happening here, in Canada, and it has to stop."