CALGARY — Five members of one family were violently mowed down by a driver Sunday night in London, Ontario, and now Calgarians are pleading for support for their Muslim neighbours and friends.
Police were quick to determine the Sunday attack that killed four members of the Afzaal family was allegedly motivated by hate due to the family’s Muslim faith.
20-year old Nathaniel Veltman is facing four counts of first degree murder and one count of attempted murder.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau deemed the act one of terrorism.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi echoed that sentiment.
But it’s unclear whether terrorism charges could be laid by RCMP.
“Do I sound a bit raw? It’s because I’m a bit raw,” he said at the start of Tuesday’s council meeting.
“When we spend the day debating whether we should call something terrorism, which it clearly is, or use that term domestic terrorism because that’s different than the other kind, we are complicit,” he said.
Nenshi says he has received messages from friends and strangers supporting him and many Muslims across the city.
But he strongly urged that more needs to be done.
“Don’t tell me your thoughts are with the Muslim community, tell me what you’re going to do about racism in his country,” said Nenshi.
Calgary’s Immigrant Support Society said it was devastated to learn of the tragic news from Sunday night.
“Muslims need solidarity right now from the greater Canadian public,” said spokesperson Saima Jamal.
“As horrible as this is, I feel like I’m living in déjà vu.”
Jamal pointed to recent attacks on people of colour in Calgary at Eau Claire and a road rage incident last month.
She said Muslims in Calgary are feeling more worried for their safety.
“When did evening walk that I take my family takes become an act of bravery,” she said.
Police have faced backlash previously when it comes to constituting a hate crime.
Calgary police chief Mark Neufeld sat down with CTV Morning Live on Tuesday saying sufficient evidence is needed.
“We’ll lay criminal charges and hate motivated criminal charges every single time,” said Neufeld.
“If it can be proven, (that) can be grounds to add to punishment and make the punishment more severe at sentencing.”
Organizers of a vigil at 8 p.m. Tuesday at city hall say they expect several hundred to show support, with speeches, prayers and silence for those lost.
“You cannot go and kill anybody and harm anybody for the faith that they are in,” said Riyaz Khawaja with the Hussaini Association of Calgary.
Khawaja said there seems to be more and more acts of violence directed at those of Muslim faith.
“It’s growing and we don’t know why and hate is not acceptable,” he said.