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Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera

Toronto van attacker guilty of all charges, judge rules

A makeshift memorial is pictured on Yonge Street after the van attack in Toronto, April 26, 2018 [File: Carlo Allegri/Reuters]

The man who drove a van down a busy sidewalk in Canada’s largest city in 2018, killing 10 people and injuring 16 others, has been found guilty of all criminal charges.

In a decision issued on Tuesday morning, Ontario Superior Court Justice Anne Molloy ruled that Alex Minassian was guilty of 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder in relation to the April 2018 attack in Toronto.

Minassian had pleaded not guilty and his defence lawyer argued during the trial that he was not criminally responsible because he has autism spectrum disorder that distorted his way of thinking, local media reported.

The judge, who referred to Minassian in her ruling as “John Doe” because she said she did not want to give him the fame he seeks, rejected that defence.

“Mr. Doe thought about committing these crimes over a considerable period of time and made a considered decision to proceed. His attack on these 26 victims that day was an act of a reasoning mind, notwithstanding its horrific nature, and notwithstanding that he has no remorse for it and no empathy for his victims,” she wrote.

“I find John Doe guilty on all counts on the indictment.”

Minassian drove a white rental van at high speed onto a sidewalk on Yonge Street in Toronto’s North York neighbourhood on April 23, 2018, hitting several pedestrians.

He was arrested that day after unsuccessfully trying to get the police to shoot him dead.

In a Facebook post shortly before he carried out the attack, the then-25-year-old had mentioned “incels”, or involuntary celibates, a term used to describe men who espouse a deep hatred of women, whom they believe have unfairly rejected them.

The attack and its incel connection prompted a discussion in Canadian media and on social media about the link between misogyny and acts of violence – and how ignoring the former can have deadly consequences.

“It’s like holding our breath for three years, we can finally breathe,” Nick D’Amico, whose sister Anne Marie was killed in the attack, told the Toronto Star newspaper after the verdict. Catherine Riddell, 70, who was injured, said while the court’s decision does not provide closure, she felt “like justice has been done”.

In a statement on Tuesday, Toronto Mayor John Tory said the attack was “fuelled by misogyny and hatred of women”.

“While there will never be complete closure for the families of those who died, those who were injured, or for the city itself, the conclusion of these proceedings will help,” said Tory, who added his focus remains on the victims of the attack, their families, and first responders.

Families of the victims of a deadly 2018 van attack react after the verdict was delivered [Chris Helgren/Reuters]

“Nearly three years ago, our entire city was rocked by this heinous act of violence … I want those who continue to be impacted by this tragedy to know that Toronto is with you and that we will all continue to support you,” he said.

The Ontario Autism Coalition also welcomed the court’s decision, saying it hoped it “can now lift the dark cloud that has hung over this trial, with a firm rejection of the use of autism as a defence”.

“Violent traits have no connection to autism,” the group said in a statement shared on Twitter.

“The court’s decision makes it clear this was never a case of autism causing mass murder, but rather a case where someone who committed mass murder happened to have autism.”

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