Ottawa

Hundreds in Ottawa mourn Muslim family killed in London truck attack

Members of Ottawa's Muslim community say the killing of the Afzaal family in London, Ont., "hits close to home."

Killing of 3 generations in Afzaal family sent shockwaves throughout Canada

Hundreds gathered in front of the Human Rights memorial on Elgin Street in Ottawa Tuesday evening for a vigil organized to mourn the death of a London, Ont., family killed in what police call a hate-motivated crime. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

Members of Ottawa's Muslim community say the killing of the Afzaal family in London, Ont., "hits close to home."

Hundreds gathered in front of the Human Rights Monument on Elgin Street in downtown Ottawa Tuesday evening for an emotional vigil held to honour and mourn the Afzaal family.

Four members the family were identified as the victims of a hit and run Sunday in what police are calling a hate-motivated attack in London, Ont. 

Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Afzaal and Salman Afzaal's 74-year-old mother, Talat Afzaal, were killed after a black truck slammed into them as they took an evening walk.

The youngest member of the family, nine-year-old Fayez Afzaal, is the only survivor.

Candles and flowers are laid down to honour the Afzaal family as organizer Nabila Kaci, president of the Ottawa chapter of the Canadian Council for Muslim Women, speaks to the crowd. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

Ottawa vigil organizer Nabila Kaci said that little boy was her first thought Tuesday morning.

"Sorry, Fayez, sorry," said Kaci, who is also president of the Ottawa chapter of the Canadian Council for Muslim Women.

"Maybe I should have done more, to educate more, to stand up more, stand up against the hate crimes that we see," she said.

Kaci said Ottawa's Muslim community is living in "disbelief but also fear."

"I fear for my son. I fear for my friends. I fear for my brothers and sisters in the community."

Speakers at the vigil addressed the crowd, asking for the Canadian government to do more to combat Islamophobia.

Sahada Alolo, president of the Ottawa Muslim Women's Organization, says women in the community become visible targets when they wear a hijab. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

Sahada Alolo, president of the Ottawa Muslim Women's Organization, said the attack on the Afzaal family "hits close to home."

"I'm a Muslim woman in a hijab and we continue to face discrimination, harassment. The hate crime is real and the fear that we continue to face is actually very, very real," Alolo said.

From left to right, Naaz Nathoo, 11-year-old Kaysaan Nathoo, seven-year-old Shayaan Nathoo, and Zia Nathoo attend Tuesday night's vigil. Kaysaan says kids and families that look like him 'shouldn't have to feel scared.' (Nicole Williams/CBC)

Naaz and Zia Nathoo attended the vigil with their children. Their 11-year-old son Kaysaan Nathoo laid down flowers on the monument in honour of the Afzaal family.

He said he felt compelled to attend the vigil to show his support against hate.

"I shouldn't have to feel scared to walk straight and be like, 'Oh my God, am I going to get hit by a car because of my religion or colour?'" the 11-year-old said. 

A woman closes her eyes in reflection during Tuesday evening's vigil. (Nicole Williams)

Tejpreet Dulat from Ottawa said while he's not Muslim himself, he knows the risk of being a visible minority.

"We all need to stand together on this thing," Dulat said.

Rawan Ahmed, who attended the vigil with her twin sister Rawda, called the attack "sickening."

"It just really leaves us completely speechless and I think about my family who are visibly Muslim and thinking that ... it could have been them," Ahmed said. "This breaks my heart."

Tejpreet Dulat says as a father, his heart aches for nine-year-old Fayaz Afzaal, who was the lone survivor of the attack in London, Ont. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

Federal Minister Catherine McKenna attended the vigil. She took a moment to deliver a tearful message to the Muslim community.

"This is your community. You're part of this community and we will always, always stand with you," she said Tuesday.

Federal Minister Catherine McKenna hugs vigil organizer Nabila Kaci. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

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