Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau has promised to take more action to dismantle far-right groups after a hate-motivated attack that killed four members of a Muslim family in the city of London, Ontario.
“This was a terrorist attack, motivated by hatred, in the heart of one of our communities,” Mr Trudeau said in the House of Commons on Tuesday after observing a moment of silence.
The family, killed on Sunday when a pickup truck jumped the kerb and ran them over, were deliberately targeted because of their religion, Canadian police said.
“We’ll continue to fight hate online and offline ... [including] taking more action to dismantle far-right hate groups, like we did with the Proud Boys by adding them to Canada’s terror listing,” said Mr Trudeau, who was due to attend a vigil outside the London Muslim Mosque for the victims later on Tuesday.
Police in London arrested Nathaniel Veltman (20) in a car park about 500m from the London Muslim Mosque. He was wearing a body-armour type of vest. Mr Veltman, has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder. Authorities are reviewing the possibility of terrorism charges.
The attack was the worst against Canadian Muslims since a man gunned down six members of a Quebec City mosque in 2017. London mayor Ed Holder said it was the worst mass murder in his city's history. In September 2020, Mohammed Aslam Zafis, a Muslim man, was stabbed to death outside a Toronto mosque. Police charged a 34-year-old man with murder.
In February, Canada designated the far-right Proud Boys group a terrorist entity, saying it posed an active security threat after the January assault on the US Capitol in Washington. Although the group has never mounted an attack in Canada, officials said domestic intelligence forces had become increasingly worried about it.
"Muslims wonder, how many more lives will it take, how many families will be mowed – mowed – down in the streets, how many more families will be killed before we do something?" opposition New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh, the first person from an ethnic minority to lead a major Canadian political party, said in the House of Commons after Trudeau spoke.
An anti-Islam rally was held in London in 2017 that was organised, according to media reports, by a group called the Patriots of Canada Against the Islamization of the West. Counter protesters greatly outnumbered the anti-Islam demonstrators at the event, according to media reports at the time.
In a statement released late on Monday, relatives of the victims said the accused attacker “was influenced by a group that he associated with”, but did not identify the group or explain how they knew this information.
Mr Veltman appears to have had little social media footprint. A spokesperson at the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, an organisation that tracks hate groups, said that was unusual for a 20-year-old man.
“Someone poured poison into his ear,” said the spokesperson, who asked not to be named. “We hope that further information will be shared to help determine and identify his online and media consumption.”
In April, Canada’s intelligence service said the pandemic threatened to increase national security risks.
"The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated xenophobic and anti-authority narratives, many of which may directly or indirectly impact national security considerations," the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) said it its most recent annual report. – Reuters