Father of man accused in anti-Muslim attack in London, Ont., calls it 'senseless act'

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LONDON, Ont. — The father of a man accused in the deadly attack against a Muslim family in southwestern Ontario is calling the incident "a senseless act."

Mark Veltman says what happened was an "unspeakable crime" and there are no words to properly express his sorrow for the victims.

Twenty-year-old Nathaniel Veltman made a brief virtual appearance in court this morning to face four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.

Veltman, wearing an orange T-shirt and orange pants with a blue mask, spoke calmly and clearly from the Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre.

Relatives have identified the dead as 46-year-old Salman Afzaal, his 44-year-old wife Madiha Salman, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Salman and her 74-year-old grandmother, Talat Afzaal.

The couple's nine-year-old son, Fayez, was seriously wounded but is expected to recover.

"Mr. Veltman have you retained counsel?" asked Justice of the Peace Robert Seneshen.

"I've only spoken to them," Veltman said, adding that he was in discussions with a local law firm.

Police allege the attack was a planned and premeditated act that targeted Muslims.

Court heard that the Crown continues to work on disclosure, which will be provided to Veltman once he has retained a lawyer.

Veltman is set to return to court on June 14.

Meanwhile, calls continue to grow for a national summit on anti-Muslim hate.

The National Council for Canadian Muslims has a petition signed by more than 35,000 people calling for all levels of government to tackle Islamophobia.

"This loss of a family, the loss of a child in our community because of Islamophobia – this is a sorrow that will run deep for a long time," the council wrote in the petition. "Let that sorrow be the ground where we stand for justice and stand for change."

The group's petition echoes a call by the London Muslim Mosque, to which the family belonged.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 10, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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