London, Ont. honouring ‘Our London Family’ with third anniversary vigil – London

Three years after the devastating attack that rocked the London community, the city will be holding a vigil to honour the Afzaal family.

June 6 marks three years since four members of a London, Ont. family were killed while out for a walk in the city’s east end. The family was deliberately struck while waiting at the intersection of Hyde Park Road and South Carriage Road.

Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Afzaal and Salman’s 74-year-old mother Talat Afzaal were killed. The couple’s then nine-year-old son sustained serious but non-life-threatening injuries and survived the attack.

Earlier this year, the man responsible for the murders, Nathaniel Veltman, 23, was sentenced to life in prison for the attack, and his actions were deemed terrorism. Veltman appealed the decision in April.

A vigil commemorating the family will be held Thursday evening, from 7:45 to 9 p.m. on South Carriage road west of Hyde Park road. Community leaders and guests will be speaking, and all Londoners are invited to attend.

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“On the anniversary of the tragic loss of four members of Our London Family, let us unite in honouring their lives and supporting each other the same way we did three years ago,” London Mayor Josh Morgan said in a statement. “Hate has no home here. City Council alongside our community partners remain committed to combating hate and Islamophobia in all of its forms here in our city.”

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Chair of the London Council of Imams Abd Alfatah Twakkal says three years on, London’s Muslim community is still feeling the impact.

“I’m not sure if there will be a point where we can walk on the streets with a complete sense of safety and security because that possibility always remains in our minds,” Twakkal said. “But at the same time…we should not allow fears to dictate our lives. We’ll continue to live.”

This year’s vigil is especially significant for the community, Twakkal says, because of Veltman’s designation as a terrorist linked to white nationalist ideologies, a first in Canada.

“It’s important that it’s recognized for what it needs to be recognized as. It is a form of hatred that led to the senseless loss of three generations within a single family. Being able to understand what is at the root of this hatred is the first step to be able to take actions to eliminate any of these forms of discrimination and racism.”

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To accommodate the vigil, South Carriage Road will be fully closed from Hyde Park Road to Prince of Wales Gate from 11 a.m. to approximately 10 p.m on Thursday.

Attendees can park at St. John French Immersion Catholic Elementary School at 1212 Coronation Drive, the Real Canadian Superstore at 1205 Oxford Street, and the RONA north location at 1335 Fanshawe Road West. Shuttle buses will provide pick up and drop off at the Real Canadian Superstore and RONA parking lots.

City Hall will also fly a “Our London Family” flag, and both City Hall and the J. Allyn Taylor Building will be lit purple and green to honour the Afzaals. Several other events are planned throughout the city, and free “Our London Family” signs can be picked up at locations throughout the city. More information can be found on the city of London website.

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