Relatives of the four Canadian Muslims killed in what police describe as a “hate attack” have described them as a “model family” and called on the country to fight hatred and Islamophobia.

The victims – three generations of the same family who emigrated from Pakistan 14 years ago – died Sunday after a 20-year-old man drove his van to them in what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described as an “attack. terrorist, motivated by hatred ”.

Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha, 44, their daughter Yumna, 15, and the children’s grandmother, 74, died after the attack. Their nine-year-old son Fayez, the sole survivor of the attack, remains in hospital with serious but not life-threatening injuries.

Afzaal was a physiotherapist and active member of the London, Ont. Community, often seen at local cricket matches or at the mosque. His wife, Madiha, was working on her doctorate in civil engineering at Western University.

The couple “made you feel like the center of the world,” said Javeed Sukhera, a London-based psychiatrist and family friend. “They always had a smile on their face. “

Yumna was finishing ninth grade, while their grandmother is described as “a pillar of their family who cherished their daily walks.”

In one declaration, relatives said the Afzaal family “was always there to give and participate in the spread of the good”.

“They worked extremely hard in their fields and excelled,” the statement said. “We need to understand that destroying a family in a brutal and horrific way like this is something we all need to stand up against. We need to fight hatred and Islamophobia and raise awareness in our communities and across the political spectrum. “

A socially distanced vigil will take place on Tuesday evening outside London’s Muslim mosque, where neighbors have already set up a makeshift memorial with flowers, stuffed animals and messages calling for an end to hatred and Islamophobia.

The flags in London – a city of 400,000 with 20 to 40,000 Muslim residents – were lowered for three days. A march is also planned for Friday

Speaking in Parliament, after a minute’s silence for the family, Trudeau said: “We cannot allow any form of hatred to take hold because the consequences can be far too severe. We saw it in Christchurch. We have seen it elsewhere in the world and we have experienced it here at home.

The suspect, Nathaniel Veltman, has been charged with four counts of first degree murder and one count of attempted murder.

London Police Chief Steve Williams said on Monday that investigators “believed it was an intentional act” and that “the victims of this horrific incident were targeted because of their Islamic faith “.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan called the attack a deliberate act of terrorism targeting Muslims which “reveals the rise of Islamophobia in Western countries”.

The attack was an extreme example of the violence that Muslims in Canada have suffered in recent years.

From 2015 to 2019, the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) tracked more than 300 incidents, including more than 30 acts of physical violence. These include a gun attack on the Islamic Cultural Center of Quebec on January 29, 2017, which left six dead and 19 injured in one of the deadliest mass shootings in history. recent from Canada.

“There is a frustration that Islamophobia seems to be increasing in the country, despite all the words people hear from politicians,” said Nabil Sultan, president of the Muslim Association of Canada, who lives in London.

“People are devastated, heartbroken and worried for the safety of their children precisely because this is an activity people would not think twice about. The idea of ​​taking your family down the street is something you do without thinking twice – and now we have to think twice. Now we have to ask ourselves: are we putting our families at risk? “