Photo:iStock

TRIBUTES have been paid to members of a family who were killed in what police believe was a hate crime attack in Canada on Sunday (6).

Dubbed a “terrorist” act by prime minister Justin Trudeau, the attack came out of the blue as the Afzaal family, taking one of the evening strolls they loved, prepared to cross a street in Ontario, Canada.

The lives of three generations were snuffed out in a moment: Madiha Salman, 44, who was doing postgraduate work in civil and environmental engineering; her 46-year-old husband, Salman Afzaal, who loved to greet people at the mosque; their 15-year-old daughter, Yumna Salman; and Afzaal’s 74-year-old mother, who has not been named.

The couple’s son, nine-year-old Fayez, was instantly orphaned. He remains in hospital with serious injuries but is recovering, relatives said.

Friends said the mother was a “brilliant scholar”, while the cricket-loving father had “a welcoming smile” and teenage daughter was “a friend to many”. Along with their doting grandmother, they were described as “model family” who had roots in Pakistan.

What had been an ordinary evening for the Afzaals was brutally cut short when a black pickup truck, driven by a 20-year-old suspect, took a deliberate aim at them, jumping a curb and mowing them down.

The attack, in the city of 500,000 some 200 km (125 miles) southwest of Toronto, sparked anger and disbelief over another senseless attack on ordinary Canadian Muslims.

“Everyone who knew Salman and the rest of the Afzaal family knew the model family they were, as Muslims, Canadians and Pakistanis,” said a statement from their relatives. “They were always there giving and participating in spreading goodness.”

All were hard workers, and the children were “top students,” it said.

Madiha Salman was finishing her doctorate at Western University in London. She arrived in Canada in 2007 after completing studies in civil engineering and environment in Pakistan.

She was “a brilliant scholar and a caring mother and friend,” her friends wrote on a GoFundMe page that has so far raised Can$470,000 (£274156) to support Fayez and the broader Pakistani community in London.

The London mosque and the National Council of Canadian Muslims have separately raised more than Can$785,000 (£457,899) on the LaunchGood platform, while a fund-raising effort by a Muslim association at Western University has taken in Can$700,000 (£408,318).

Madiha Salman’s Facebook page features pictures of her smiling children and of gifts they had made her for Mother’s Day.

Salman Afzaal was a “beloved member of the London community. Whether at his local cricket matches or at the Masjid (mosque) the first thing to greet you would be his gentle and welcoming smile,” the GoFundMe post said.

Daughter Yumna, a ninth grader, was “a loving friend to many.”

And Salman’s mother, whose name has not been released, was “a pillar of their family” – someone who “cherished their daily walks.”

The relatives of the family are urging the wider community to oppose racism and Islamophobia after police said the suspect was motivated by hate.

In a statement issued late on Monday, the relatives disputed an initial police appraisal that the accused man was not a member of any hate group and had no accomplices.

“The young man who committed this act of terror was influenced by a group that he associated with, and the rest of the community must take a strong stand against this,” the relatives said, though they did not identify the group or explain how they know about the alleged ties.

“We need to stand against hate and Islamophobia and raise awareness in our communities and across all the political spectrum,” they added.

Police, citing witnesses, said Veltman jumped the curb in his vehicle and struck five members of the family. Veltman, with no previous criminal record, is due back in court on Thursday (10) after being remanded in custody on Monday (7).