The four victims, spanning three generations, were killed when Nathaniel Veltman, 20, ran into them while they were out for an evening walk near their home in London, Ontario. A fifth family member is recovering from his injuries in the hospital.
Several hundred mourners have joined a public funeral service of a Canadian Muslim family run over and killed by a man in a pick-up truck last Sunday in a terror attack the police said was driven by "hate."
The four victims, spanning three generations, were killed when Nathaniel Veltman, 20, ran into them while they were out for an evening walk near their home in London, Ontario. A fifth family member, a 9-year-old boy, is recovering from his injuries in the hospital.
My prayers are with the City of London, Ontario following the heinous hate crime that took place against an innocent Muslim family.— Gurpreet Singh Dhillon (@gurpreetdhillon) June 7, 2021
I stand in solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters across Canada who are mourning this loss.#Islamophobia & hate have no place here. pic.twitter.com/jdHZFSZQw3
Police have said the attack was premeditated and allege the family was targeted because of their Islamic faith.
The hour-long ceremony started after the four coffins draped in Canadian flags rolled into the compound of the Islamic Centre of Southwest Ontario, and ended with prayers and condolences offered by religious and community leaders.
The funeral procession later proceeded for a private burial.
"And the very fact their coffins are draped in the beautiful Canadian flag is an apt testimony of the fact that the entire Canadian nation stands with them," Raza Bashir Tarar High Commissioner for Pakistan to Canada told the gathering.
The family moved to Canada from Pakistan some 14 years ago.
The attack sparked outrage across Canada, with politicians from all sides condemning the crime, spurring growing calls to take action to curb hate crime and anti-Islam sentiment. The city of London, 200 km (120 miles) southwest of Toronto, has seen an outpouring of support in the aftermath of the attack.
Veltman, who returns to court on Monday, faces four charges of first-degree murder and one of attempted murder.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called the killings a "terrorist attack" and vowed to clamp down on far-right groups and online hate.
"I think we're emotionally exhausted," Imam Aarij Anwer told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp before the ceremony. "We're looking forward to having some closure on Saturday."
‘Entire nation stands with them’
Among the mourners were other family members who arrived in the city of 400,000 southwest of Toronto from Pakistan, the country the Afzaal family emigrated from 14 years ago, and other family members from Australia.
They were not alone, as thousands lined the streets as the funeral procession passed by and hundreds gathered for the public service held at the Islamic Centre of Southwest Ontario, which lasted about an hour.
The four coffins placed in front of the service were all draped in the Canadian Maple Leaf flag.
Pakistan’s high commissioner from Pakistan to Canada noted that they mean “the entire Canadian nation stands with them.”
Ed Holder, the mayor of London, did not speak at the ceremony but was interviewed live and said he was “not surprised at the thousands and thousands here today. ”
Gazing around, Holder said: “This is too heartbreaking.”
People were asked to wear purple and green ribbons. Purple was Yumna’s favourite colour, and green is a colour often associated with Islam.
Joined MP @SalmaZahid15, MPP @MitzieHunter and the Scarborough Muslim Association at Thomson Memorial Park today for a community walk in solidarity with London and the Muslim community. #FightAgainstIslamaphobia #MuslimHateMustStop pic.twitter.com/CJqNYzhgA7— Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson (@Thompson_37) June 12, 2021
Speakers told of the kindness of the family, their generosity and community involvement. It was a family destroyed by hate simply because of their religion, authorities said.
Marches were held in cities across the country on Saturday, and that was appreciated, said a local imam.
The size of the London Muslim community is about 30,000, and the funeral is seen as a step towards healing.
“We are grateful for everything that has happened since that horrific tragedy,” Aarij Anwer told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation before Saturday’s funeral services. “We’re looking forward to having some closure on Saturday.”
Summit on anti-Islam sentiment
After the public ceremony, the family departed for a private burial service at the Islamic Cemetery.
Memorial services in other Canadian cities were also held over the weekend.
The federal government said on Friday it will convene a summit on anti-Islam sentiment by the end of July, a summit demanded by many in the aftermath of the tragedy.
And the Ontario provincial government passed a motion on Saturday morning condemning anti-Islam sentiment.
It is not the first time multiple Muslims have been targeted and murdered in Canada.
Four years ago, six men were shot to death as they worshipped at the Quebec City Mosque, and 19 were wounded.
The funeral was aired live on Canadian TV news stations and streamed on websites.