TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian Muslim charities are leading fundraising efforts to help victims of Monday’s van attack in Toronto and their families cope with medical and funeral costs, teaming up with Toronto’s city government.
Suspect Alek Minassian, 25, was charged with 10 counts of murder and 13 counts of attempted murder on Tuesday after he plowed a rental van into pedestrians on a crowded Toronto sidewalk.
Charity Canada Zakat had collected more than C$145,000 (about $113,000) as of late morning Wednesday through a GoFundMe campaign, while Islamic Relief Canada, which provides emergency relief following disasters, had received C$6,500 in donations on Launchgood.com, a Muslim fundraising platform.
These charities’ efforts were spurred by donor feedback from fundraising following a January 2017 shooting at a Quebec City mosque and are the most high profile since then.
“One donor said ‘if this ever happens again, you guys should be out there again, regardless of who the perpetrator is, who the victim is’,” said Zaid Al-Rawni, chief executive of Islamic Relief Canada. “That was the main driver for this.”
Human Concern International, another Muslim charity, and Islamic Circle of North America’s Canadian relief arm are also raising funds, according to their websites.
Most of the charities began the campaigns before the identity of the attacker was confirmed and said social media speculation that he was Muslim had little bearing on their decision to raise funds.
The police have not disclosed the suspect’s background, and the attack does not appear to have been motivated by religion. Minassian is an Armenian surname.
Al-Rawni said Islamic Relief Canada will funnel the money into a fund set up by the city of Toronto and Toronto Foundation, a philanthropic organization. Toronto Mayor John Tory said on Tuesday the fund will ensure that donations can be distributed in an orderly fashion.
“My assumption is that because they realized they have the ear of generous community members in the Muslim community, they knew they’d be able to have an impact here,” said Julia Howell, a spokeswoman for the Toronto Foundation, adding Victim Services will be among the recipients.
Sana Khawaja, a spokeswoman for Canada Zakat, said the Canadian Muslim community needs to make it apparent how much service is a part of the faith. “We’re a strong population here, let’s do what we can.”
($1 = 1.2826 Canadian dollars)
Reporting By Nichola Saminather; additional reporting by Allison Martell