'Heartache that will never go away:' Afzaal relatives issue statement before London, Ont., attack anniversary

·4 min read
Thousands of people marched in London, Ont., after the June 2021 killing of the Afzaal family in what police say was an anti-Muslim attack. Days before the first anniversary, relatives of the family have released a statement expressing thanks to the community as they continue to deal with the grief. (Travis Dolyny/CBC News - image credit)
Thousands of people marched in London, Ont., after the June 2021 killing of the Afzaal family in what police say was an anti-Muslim attack. Days before the first anniversary, relatives of the family have released a statement expressing thanks to the community as they continue to deal with the grief. (Travis Dolyny/CBC News - image credit)

Days ahead of the first anniversary of the deadly attack on a Muslim family in London, Ont., relatives of the Afzaals expressed their continued heartache over the loss while condemning violence and discrimination, and thanking the community for their support.

"It is the deepest sadness when you realize that the people who gave you the best memories have become but a memory," Umar Afzaal wrote in a statement released Wednesday on behalf of the surviving family members. "Missing you all, our beloved family, is a heartache that will never go away. Your memories are a treasure that we keep in our hearts and we continue to struggle with the question of why you all had to depart this life."

The statement also said the "heinous act" that took the lives of the family members is still difficult to understand.

 

Yumna Afzaal, 15, her mom and dad, Madiha Salman, 44, and Salman Afzaal, 46, and her grandmother, Talat Afzaal, 74, were killed June 6, 2021, after a vehicle jumped a curb while they were out for a Sunday walk. Police believe the family was targeted because of their Muslim faith.

Umar Afzaal's nephew, a boy who's the youngest member of the family, survived the attack. Family members have asked that the boy not be named so he can have as normal a life as possible.

The statement adds: "A year sounds like such a long time, but without you all, it has gone in the blink of an eye. We miss you all more than words can express."

Andrew Lupton/CBC
Andrew Lupton/CBC

The family statement also acknowledges the outpouring of support in the past year.

"The Afzaal family would like to express our deepest thanks to the London, Ont., community, for their continuous support and understanding. To lose three generations of our family was a catastrophe, but our community came together and has provided us with hope and strength. It is with this strength we have been able to continue forward."

On Monday, CBC London will be broadcasting live from the London Muslim Mosque from 6 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. ET in a special anniversary broadcast of London Morning, as those close to the family and community members continue a series of events to honour them.

The events include:

  • A prayer serve at 9 a.m. ET at the Islamic Cemetery.

  • The unveiling of a community garden at Maple Grove Park at 1 p.m.

  • A vigil at the site of the attack (at Hyde Park and South Carriage Road) that's set to start at 6:30 p.m., and will include the opening of a memorial plaza in the family's honour, and a special prayer at 10:30 p.m. at the North London Islamic Centre.

The family statement also addressed the nature of the incident that took the lives of four valued members of the community.

"As a family, we have always believed in equality and freedom from all forms of discrimination on account of race, colour or creed," it said. "In our view, June 6, 2021, marked a day when life was not only taken from four innocent people, but from the whole of humanity. We, the Afzaal family, condemn all types of violence motivated by hatred. We continue to heal from this incredibly tragic event that our family has endured."

The family members added that they don't endorse any political, religious or cultural campaigns, don't endorse any fundraising efforts in the name of their family, and they need privacy, particularly for the boy who survived.

Carlos Osorio/Reuters
Carlos Osorio/Reuters

The family has "also directed that all crowdfunding be stopped and transferred within the jurisdiction of the court, with the proceeds being preserved for the surviving minor, upon him reaching the age of majority," Umar wrote.

"The Afzaal family continues to place the greatest amount of belief and support in the Canadian justice system, and we look forward to seeing justice served."

The accused in the attack faces murder and related terrorism charges. Starting Sept. 5, 2023, 12 weeks have been set aside for his trial.

Federal Crown attorney Lisa Matthews told a London court that the case received a preferred indictment on Jan. 21, meaning the preliminary hearing will be skipped.

 

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