Hundreds of mourners attended a public burial ceremony on Saturday to say goodbye to a Canadian Muslim family who were ran over and killed by a man in a pick-up truck last Sunday in an incident that authorities claimed was motivated by hatred.
The hour-long ritual began when four coffins covered in Canadian flags arrived at the Islamic Centre of Southwest Ontario and finished with prayers and condolences from religious and community leaders.
The four victims, spanning three generations, were killed when Nathaniel Veltman, 20, ran into them while they were out for an evening walk near their home in London, Ontario. A fifth family member, a 9-year-old boy, is recovering from his injuries in the hospital.
Police have said the attack was premeditated and allege the family was targeted because of their Islamic faith.
The funeral procession later proceeded for a private burial.
“And the very fact their coffins are draped in the beautiful Canadian flag is an apt testimony of the fact that the entire Canadian nation stands with them,” said Raza Bashir Tarar, Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Canada.
The family immigrated to Canada from Pakistan 14 years ago.
The incident generated anger across Canada, with leaders from all political parties denouncing the assault and increasing calls for action to combat hate crime and Islamophobia. In the aftermath of the incident, the city of London, located 200 kilometres (120 miles) south-west of Toronto, has experienced an outpouring of sympathy.
That has given some hope to the grieving community to look beyond the tragedy.
“Irrespective of colour and creed, the expressions of raw emotion, the prayers, the quiet tears, the messages of comfort from people we know and from people that are complete strangers, it has been the first step towards finding a way to heal,” Ali Islam, maternal uncle of Madiha Salman, one of the victims, told the gathering.
Veltman, who returns to court on Monday, faces four charges of first-degree murder and one of attempted murder.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called the killings a “terrorist attack” and vowed to clamp down on far-right groups and online hate.
“I think we’re emotionally exhausted,” Imam Aarij Anwer told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp before the ceremony. “We’re looking forward to having some closure on Saturday.”