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Trial of man charged in deaths of London, Ont., Muslim family members to start Tuesday

The trial of a man facing terror-related murder charges in the deaths of four members of a Muslim family in London, Ont., in 2021 is set to start today.

Jury selection will begin this morning for the trial of Nathaniel Veltman who is accused of deliberately hitting the Afzaal family members with his truck as they were out for a walk on the evening of June 6, 2021.

Superior Court Justice Renee Pomerance ruled last year that a change of venue is warranted in the case, moving the trial from London to Windsor, Ont.

The reasons for that decision, as well as the evidence and arguments presented in court, cannot be disclosed due to a publication ban.

Salman Afzaal, 46, his 44-year-old wife Madiha Salman, their 15-year-old daughter Yumnah and her 74-year-old grandmother, Talat Afzaal, were killed in the attack. The couple’s nine-year-old son was also seriously hurt but survived.

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Veltman, who was 20 at the time of his arrest, is facing four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder in what prosecutors allege was an act of terrorism targeting London’s Muslim community.

The attack on the Afzaal family sent waves of shock, grief and fear across Canada and spurred ongoing calls for measures to combat Islamophobia in the country.

The federal government hosted a summit on Islamophobia in July 2021 to hear Muslim Canadians’ ideas and insights on how Ottawa can stop attacks targeting their community.

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After the attack, the National Council of Canadian Muslims released a list of recommendations to fight anti-Muslim hate across Canada, including calling on the federal and provincial governments to commit to anti-Islamophobia strategies in education and provide resources to fight anti-Muslim hate.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed in January journalist and human rights advocate Amira Elghawaby as Canada’s first special representative to combat Islamophobia, to serve as an adviser and expert as the federal government works to fight religious intolerance and systemic racism.

A mural featuring a painting by Yumnah Afzaal is now the centrepiece of a permanent memorial at the site of the attack, at the intersection of Hyde Park Road and South Carriage Road.

The City of London has also dedicated a garden to the Afzaal family.


&© 2023 The Canadian Press

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