The Canadian Muslim Public Affairs Council (“CMPAC”) welcomes the recent verdict in the case of Nathaniel Veltman, convicted of murder and attempted murder after deliberately targeting five members of a Muslim family in London, Ontario (“London Attack”). This heinous act, which amounted to a finding of a “textbook example” of terrorism under Canadian law by the judge’s ruling, serves as a reminder of the urgent need to confront the systemic Islamophobia and hate-motivated violence in our society. As we reflect on the implications of this verdict, our response must extend beyond mere condemnation, and instead act as a catalyst for meaningful change, grounded in concrete policy reforms. 

The London Attack, which occurred in June 2021, shocked the nation and exposed the devastating consequences of Islamophobia. Ontario Superior Court Justice Renee Pomerance’s declaration that Veltman’s actions constituted terrorism is a significant milestone in Canada’s legal history. This landmark ruling not only recognizes the inherent danger posed by ideologies of racial nationalism, but also reaffirms the imperative of holding perpetrators of hate-motivated violence accountable to the fullest extent of the law.

As we grapple with the aftermath of this tragic event, CMPAC’s response to the London Attack verdict is guided by our commitment to justice and compassion. It is within this context that we reinforce the policy priorities outlined in our recent budget submission to the Canadian government. CMPAC’s recommendations seek to 1) address the systemic barriers that perpetuate discrimination, 2) combat online hate speech, and 3) promote education against Islamophobia. These policy initiatives take on heightened importance given yesterday’s ruling. 

Addressing Systemic Discrimination

The verdict in the London Attack case presents a critical moment for reflection on the state of justice and equity in Canada. While we support the terrorism sentencing, we cannot overlook the disparities in how acts of violence against marginalized communities are addressed. The contrast between this verdict and the response to the Quebec mosque shooting, where the term “terrorism” was initially avoided, highlights the need for consistent and equitable treatment in cases of hate-motivated violence. CMPAC calls upon policymakers to ensure that all victims of hate crimes receive the same level of recognition and prosecution  under the law, regardless of their background or beliefs. It is essential for policymakers to ensure that the legal system does not discriminate in its response to such crimes by appropriately acknowledging and punishing all acts of terrorism.

Combatting Online Hate

The proliferation of online hate speech has played a significant role in fueling Islamophobia and other forms of discrimination in Canada. CMPAC’s budget submission emphasized the importance of combatting online hate through targeted interventions and awareness initiatives. The verdict in the London Attack case underscores the need for these efforts, as online platforms continue to be used as breeding grounds for extremist ideologies and hate-filled rhetoric. We urge policymakers to prioritize the development of comprehensive strategies to effectively address online hate.

Education Against Islamophobia 

Education is a powerful tool in the fight against Islamophobia and other forms of discrimination. CMPAC’s budget submission also advocated for increased support for awareness initiatives that promote diversity, inclusivity, and understanding. Yesterday’s ruling reinforces the importance of these initiatives, as ignorance and misinformation underpin acts of hate-motivated violence. By investing in awareness initiatives against Islamophobia, we empower individuals to challenge stereotypes, confront prejudice, and foster empathy and solidarity across communities.

In closing, the London Attack case underscores the need for effective policy measures to protect not only Canadian Muslims, but all marginalized communities. Moving forward, it is imperative that policymakers heed the lessons of this verdict and take decisive action to address the systemic issues that perpetuate discrimination and hate. This includes, but is not limited to, reinforcing the CMPAC policy priorities mentioned above. CMPAC is committed to advocating for the rights and protection of Muslims and marginalized communities. We work tirelessly to ensure tragedies like the one faced by the Afzaal family in London serve as catalysts for change. Our aim is clear: such events must never happen again.