Monday, April 15

Canadian Court Rules That Killings of Four Muslims Was Terrorism

A Canadian judge ruled on Thursday that the deadly rampage of a man who drove his truck into five members of a Muslim family was an act of terrorism motivated by white supremacist ideology and sentenced him to life with no possibility of parole for 25 years for his crimes.

The terrorism finding by Justice Renee Pomerance of the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario was the first in Canada against a far-right extremist, according to the country’s criminal prosecution service. The perpetrator, Nathaniel Veltman, 23, killed four members of the Afzaal family in London, Ontario, in his June 2021 rampage and was convicted of first-degree murder and attempted murder in November.

In his trial, Mr. Veltman’s lawyers did not challenge that he had deliberately driven his Ram truck into the family. But they argued it was an impulsive act caused by consuming psilocybin, more commonly known as magic mushrooms, several hours earlier. They also said that he suffered from mental health problems and had difficulty controlling “an urge or obsession to put his foot on the gas” of his pickup.

But Justice Pomerance said Mr. Veltman was motivated by white supremacy.

“One might go so far as to characterize this as a textbook example of terrorist motive and intent,” Justice Pomerance told the courtroom in London, Ontario, according to the The Canadian Press, a news agency.

“He wanted to intimidate the Muslim community. He wanted to follow in the footsteps of other mass killers, and he wanted to inspire others to commit murderous acts,” she said, adding that it was an “inescapable conclusion” that the killing was an act of terrorism.

“The offender did not know the victims,” the judge said during the sentencing, in which she never referred to Mr. Veltman by name to avoid giving him publicity. “He had never met them. He killed them because they were Muslim.”

The terrorism finding was mostly symbolic, having no impact on the sentencing of Mr. Veltman, 23. Under Canadian law, first-degree murder convictions have a mandatory sentence of life with no possibility of parole for 25 years. But Sarah Shaikh, the prosecutor, told reporters said that the finding was still important.

“It is an acknowledgment that the offender’s attack was not only targeted at the Afzaal family, it was also targeted and directed toward the entire Muslim community,” she said.

“It was also an attack on values that we as Canadians hold very dear — inclusiveness, community, decency and multiculturalism,” she added.

From the time of the killing, many members of Canada’s Muslim community had called for the killings to formally be declared an act of terrorism.

Mr. Veltman told police that he aimed his full-size pickup truck at his victims because he believed they were Muslim based on their clothing, prosecutors said during his 10-week trial.

Mr. Veltman drove past the Afzaals near a busy intersection and made a U-turn to mow them down, prosecutors said during the trial.

He killed three generations of the family. The youngest was Yumnah Afzaal, 15. Her parents, Salman Afzaal, a 46-year-old physiotherapist, and Madiha Salman, 44, a doctoral student in civil engineering, died, as did Mr. Afzaal’s mother, Talat Afzaal, 74.

At the trial, prosecutors said that Mr. Veltman had become obsessed with white supremacist ideology and wrote a manifesto titled “A White Awakening” just five days before he mowed down the family.

A young boy was the only survivor of the attack.

A jury convicted Mr. Veltman of first-degree murder and attempted murder in November, but the terrorism finding was delayed until Thursday’s sentencing hearing.

Speaking for the family outside the courthouse, Tabinda Bukhari, Ms. Salman’s mother, said that although Thursday’s ruling acknowledged that hate had taken the lives of four people, it would not replace what her family had lost.

“It will not mend the fractured pieces of our lives, our identity and our security,” she said, reading from a statement.