Inuk neighbour of murdered Muslim family in London says it was ‘always enjoyable’ seeing them


A young Inuk student living in London, Ont., says he often saw the Muslim family that was murdered this week while out for a walk.

“Every time we would walk by them they’d wave,” says Sebastian Kanayuk, a Nunavut student studying in London. “They were always energetic. You just kind of catch that feeling that you want to play with them too. It was lovely seeing them.”

On June 6, while the family was out for a walk, a man driving a pick up truck struck and killed  Salman Afzaal, 46 and Madiha Salman, 44, daughter Yumna Salman, 15 and her 74-year-old grandmother who was not immediately named.

The couple’s nine-year-old boy, Fayez, remained in hospital with serious injuries.

Police say they were targeted because they were Muslim. The driver is facing murder charges.

Like many other students from Nunavut, Kanayuk moved from his home in Pond Inlet to attend school.

A part of his education for Kanayuk was seeing racism in London up close.

He said he and his girlfriend were flying to London and the comments started even before they got off the plane.

“We were sitting next to a white person and while we were discussing, halfway through, talking about our plans to take college and university at London and before were were about to land he told us ‘we are one of the good ones,’ in terms of we are Inuit, not sticking to the stereotypical alcoholic or person who suffers from substance abuse,” said Kanayuk.

“We tend to abstain from that – but on our first day we experienced that.”

Local officials say there’ll be more police and security for that part of London. For Kanayuk, that’s a bit of a mixed blessing.

“I’m not really a fan of police around because I’m a person of colour and we tend to be directed more towards being arrested,” said Kanayuk.

“I tend to, ironically, feel a bit non-safe, but I’m happy security are being focused in our area.”

The pair say having your friendly neighbour murdered for their race and religion is hard for most – harder if you aren’t white and have to worry the next attack is going to be again you.

Kanayuk is going to finish his degree in London. His family just wants to see him make it home safe with his education in hand.

Editor’s Note: Sebastian Kanayuk is Kent Driscoll’s brother in law.

Video Journalist / Iqaluit

Kent has been APTN’s Nunavut correspondent since 2007. In that time he has closely covered Inuit issues, including devolution and the controversial Nutrition North food subsidy. He has also worked for CKIQ-FM in Iqaluit and as a reporter for Nunavut News North.