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Vigil for Muslim family killed in Ontario set for Prince George

The vigil will take place tomorrow evening at city hall
#OurLondonFamily signs are encouraged at the vigil. (via the Canadian Press)

A vigil will take place on the steps of city hall to mourn the loss of a Muslim family killed in London Ontario last week.

On June 6, a family of five were waiting to cross the road at an intersection when a black pickup truck mounted the curb, struck them and drove away.

Salman Afzaal, 46, his 44-year-old wife Madiha Salman, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna and her 74-year-old grandmother, Talat Afzaal were killed and the couple's nine-year-old son, Fayez, was seriously injured but is expected to recover.

Police say they were targeted because they were Muslims.

20-year-old Nathaniel Veltman was arrested at a mall parking lot seven kilometres from the scene. Veltman is facing four counts of first-degree murder and one of attempted murder.

The vigil is planned as an act of solidarity with Muslim communities across Canada and compassion for the family who were victims of Islamophobia.

“We will have a few short speeches by individuals from the Muslim community as well as allies, a prayer led by the Imam of our local mosque, and a moment of silence,” said Fizza Rashid, who is one of the organizers of the vigil.

Rashid said she has personally experienced racism and xenophobia despite being born and raised in Canada.

“This news struck me to my core. I worry about people like my mother, my elders, and my friends who are visibly Muslim walking outside because they could be hate crimed like this family was and they could be taken from me in a matter of seconds.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has deemed the attack an act of terrorism.

After observing a moment of silence for the victims, Trudeau spoke in the House of Commons and called the assault "a terrorist attack, motivated by hatred." 

Rashid says it’s important the community in Prince George comes together in the wake of this tragedy because it is not a “Muslim problem”.

“This should be everyone's problem. No one should every have to experience a horrendous tragedy like this. If the script was flipped there would definitely be more public outcry,” said Rashid.

Those attending the vigils have been asked by the family not to bring candles but are encouraging flowers and posters of support with hashtags like #ourlondonfamily #saynotoIslamophobia or #muslimlivesmatter.

“People in PG should start branching out and get to know people in their community who are different. They should get to know their neighbours from different ethnicities, religions, and cultures,” added Rashid.

“We always pride ourselves as Canadians for being diverse and different than our American counter parts and it's about time we show that. I would encourage the citizens of Prince George to reach out to their local Muslim community, celebrate things like Ramadan and Eid with them or even come visit the mosque!”

The vigil will take place Tuesday June 15 at 6 p.m. at Prince George City Hall and COVID-19 protocols like social distancing and mask-wearing will be required.

-with files from the Canadian Press