Nova Scotia

Speakers denounce Islamophobia at Halifax vigil honouring Ontario family killed in attack

Around 150 people attended a Wednesday vigil at the Ummah Masjid in Halifax to remember the lives lost in a Sunday hit-and-run attack on a Muslim family in London, Ont. Speakers called for an end to hate and strengthening hate laws in Canada.

Speakers at the event called for an end to hate, stronger laws against anti-Muslim violence

Sura Hadad says anti-Islamophobia laws are needed. (Mark Crosby/CBC)

Scores turned out Wednesday evening at the Ummah Masjid and Community Centre in Halifax for a vigil to honour the victims of a Sunday hit-and-run attack that claimed the lives of four members of a Muslim family in London, Ont., and left a fifth family member seriously injured.

The gathering heard short speeches from community members, religious leaders and politicians. They called for an end to hate and the strengthening of legislation to deal with acts of hate against minority groups.

"These innocent souls were ripped apart from us because of Islamophobia, because of hate, because of racism," said Mohammad Rahaman, a member of the mosque's board.

"There is no place for hatred, there is no place for racism and discrimination, Islamophobia, in Canada."

Rahaman read the names of the family members killed or injured in the attack, and spoke of the unique contributions they made to Canada.

Yumna Afzaal, 15, Madiha Salman, 44, Talat Afzaal, 74, and Salman Afzaal, 46, left to right, were out for an evening walk Sunday when they were run over by a truck in what police say was an attack motivated by anti-Muslim hate. CBC agreed to crop out Salman and Afzaal's son, Fayez, 9. (Submitted by Afzaal family)

Many people hoping to attend the event were turned away when the outdoor area reached maximum capacity under COVID-19 public health restrictions. Approximately 150 people attended the vigil.

Premier Iain Rankin said that although the act took place far away, it was naive to believe it could not happen in Nova Scotia.

Public health restrictions due to COVID-19 limited the crowd numbers at a vigil Wednesday evening in Halifax. (Vernon Ramesar/CBC)

He called on those gathered to help make Nova Scotia a place where everyone felt safe and included.

"To our Muslim neighbours and friends, we are all with you, so lean on us now," Rankin said.

Some of the people attending the vigil carried signs calling for an end to Islamophobia.

Sura Hadad, a Halifax dentist, carried a sign saying that anti-Islamophobia laws are needed.

Premier Iain Rankin called on all Nova Scotians to speak out against anti-Muslim hate. (Mark Crosby /CBC)

She said she attended the event because of her children.

"It's important to me because last night my nine-year-old heard about it and she was telling me, 'Mom, does that mean we can't go out because we will be killed?' And I had no idea what to tell her," Hadad said.

Susan Omar said being at the event was important because there's no room for hate in Canada.

"We came here to be safe, to let our kids live life with the freedom they will be safe anywhere," she said.

Rev. Rhonda Britton of the New Horizons Baptist Church in Halifax was there to show her support to the Muslim community. A visibly-emotional Britton said when she first heard the news and saw a picture of the family, she cried.

"In the African-Canadian community and the African-American community, we cherish generations," Britton said.

"And to see three generations mowed down like this, it's just heartbreaking."