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Canadian Muslim family loses three generations in attack

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Relatives of a Canadian Muslim family killed in London, Ontario, when a man rammed them with his pick-up truck this week are urging the wider community to oppose racism and Islamophobia after police said the suspect was motivated by hate.

The four family members killed on Sunday were: Salman Afzaal, 46; his wife, Madiha Salman, 44; their 15-year-old daughter, Yumna Afzaal; and Afzaal’s 74-year-old mother, whose name has not yet been released. Their 9-year-old son, Fayez Afzaal, remained hospitalized on Tuesday with serious but non-life-threatening injuries.

A 20-year-old suspect named Nathaniel Veltman is in police custody, charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.

In a statement issued late on Monday, relatives of the victims 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 in a statement, 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 after being remanded to custody on Monday.

The relatives of the victims said the children had both been top students and their parents excelled in their fields.

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

The family has declined to comment further.

‘COULD HAVE BEEN ME’

Sana Yasir, a family friend for 12 years who lived near where they were killed, launched a GoFundMe page to raise funds for charitable donations to be made on behalf of the victims.

Yasir said she and her relatives would see them frequently on their daily walks.

The family members were active members of London’s Muslim and Pakistani communities and the children attended the local Islamic school. They moved to Canada from Pakistan in 2007, according to local media reports.

“We’ve seen the kids grow up,” Yasir said.

Yasir noted that the women were wearing hijabs and traditional shalwar kameez – a pair of loose, pleated trousers worn with a long shirt by many women from South Asia.

“They were visible,” Yasir said. “It could have been me.”

The GoFundMe page described Afzaal, a physiotherapist, as a cricket enthusiast with a warm smile and Salman as a scholar working hard to obtain her PhD in civil engineering from the University of Western Ontario.

As of Tuesday morning the page had raised just shy of C$270,000 ($223,454 in U.S. dollars).

On Tuesday morning, Fayez Afzaal was alert in the hospital and in stable condition, Yasir said.

The local school board said Yumna Afzaal, a ninth-grade student, would be “deeply missed,” adding that flags would be flown at half-staff for the week and a trauma-response team would be available at area schools.

The attack was the worst against Canadian Muslims since a man gunned down six members of a Quebec City mosque in 2017.

“After Quebec it was: are we safe praying in our mosques? And now it’s: are we safe going out for a walk after dinner?” said Nawaz Tahrir, a spokesperson for the London Muslim Mosque, where Afzaal was a familiar figure.

Tahrir added that Canadians have to “ask more of our leaders” and enact policies that address the causes of anti-Muslim hate.

“Until we do that, I fear that this isn’t going to be the last incident,” Tahrir said.

($1 = 1.2083 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Vancouver and Anna Mehler Paperny in Toronto;Editing by Denny Thomas, Will Dunham and Raissa Kasolowsky)

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Trudeau says he discussed border with Biden, but no deal

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Sunday he has spoken with U.S. President Joe Biden about how to lift pandemic-related border restrictions between the two countries but made clear no breakthrough has been achieved.

U.S. and Canadian business leaders have voiced increasing concern about the ban on non-essential travel in light of COVID-19 that was first imposed in March 2020 and renewed on a monthly basis since then. The border measures do not affect trade flows.

The border restrictions have choked off tourism between the two countries. Canadian businesses, especially airlines and those that depend on tourism, have been lobbying the Liberal government to relax the restrictions.

Canada last week took a cautious first step, saying it was prepared to relax quarantine protocols for fully vaccinated citizens returning home starting in early July.

Trudeau, speaking after a Group of Seven summit in Britain, said he had talked to Biden “about coordinating measures at our borders as both our countries move ahead with mass vaccination.” Canada is resisting calls for the border measures to be relaxed, citing the need for more people to be vaccinated.

The United States is ahead of Canada in terms of vaccination totals.

“We will continue to work closely together on moving forward in the right way but each of us always will put at the forefront the interests and the safety of our own citizens,” Trudeau told a televised news conference when asked the Biden conversation.

“Many countries, like Canada, continue to say that now is not the time to travel,” Trudeau added, though he said it is important to get back to normalcy as quickly as possible.

 

(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Will Dunham)

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Man with 39 wive dies in India

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A 76-year-old man who had 39 wives and 94 children and was said to be the head of the world’s largest family has died in north east India, the chief minister of his home state said.

Ziona Chana, the head of a local Christian sect that allows polygamy, died on Sunday, Zoramthanga, the chief minister of Mizoram and who goes by one name, said in a tweet.

With a total of 167 members, the family is the world’s largest, according to local media, although this depends on whether you count the grandchildren, of whom Ziona has 33.

Winston Blackmore, the head of a polygamous Mormon sect in Canada, has around 150 children from 27 wives – 178 people in total.

Ziona lived with his family in a vast, four-story pink structure with around 100 rooms in Baktawng, a remote village in Mizoram that became a tourist attraction as a result, according to Zoramthanga.

The sect, named “Chana”, was founded by Ziona’s father in 1942 and has a membership of hundreds of families. Ziona married his first wife when he was 17, and claimed he once married ten wives in a single year.

They shared a dormitory near his private bedroom, and locals said he liked to have seven or eight of them by his side at all times.

Despite his family’s huge size, Ziona told Reuters in a 2011 interview he wanted to grow it even further.

“I am ready to expand my family and willing to go to any extent to marry,” he said.

“I have so many people to care for and look after, and I consider myself a lucky man.”

 

(Reporting by Alasdair Pal and Adnan Abidi in New Delhi; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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Huawei CFO seeks publication ban on HSBC documents in U.S. extradition case

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Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou on Monday will seek to bar publication of documents her legal team received from HSBC, a request opposed by Canadian prosecutors in her U.S. extradition case who say it violates the principles of open court.

Meng’s legal team will present arguments in support of the ban in the British Columbia Supreme Court.

Meng, 49, was arrested at Vancouver International Airport in December 2018 on a warrant from the United States, where she faces charges of bank fraud for allegedly misleading HSBC about Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s business dealings in Iran and potentially causing the bank to break U.S. sanctions on business in Iran.

She has been under house arrest in Vancouver for more than two years and fighting her extradition to the United States. Meng has said she is innocent.

Lawyers for Huawei and HSBC in Hong Kong agreed to a release of the documents in April to Meng’s legal team on the condition that they “use reasonable effort” to keep confidential information concealed from the public, according to submissions filed by the defense on Friday.

Prosecutors representing the Canadian government argued against the ban, saying in submissions filed the same day that “to be consistent with the open court principle, a ban must be tailored” and details should be selectively redacted from the public, rather than the whole documents.

A consortium of media outlets, including Reuters News, also opposes the ban.

The open court principle requires that court proceedings be open and accessible to the public and to the media.

It is unclear what documents Huawei obtained from HSBC, but defense lawyers argue they are relevant to Meng’s case.

Meng’s hearing was initially set to wrap up in May but Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes granted an extension to allow the defense to read through the new documents.

Hearings in the extradition case are scheduled to finish in late August.

 

(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Vancouver; Editing by Howard Goller)

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