London, Ontario – A judge in London, Ontario, ruled that the actions of a man convicted in the deliberate killing of a Muslim family constituted terrorism under Canadian law. Nathaniel Veltman, 23, was found guilty of four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder in the attack on the Afzaal family on June 6, 2021.

   Superior Court Justice Renee Pomerance stated that Veltman’s actions were a “textbook example of terrorist activity,” with the deliberate targeting of the family because of their Muslim faith. The family members killed in the attack were Yumnah Afzaal, 15, her parents Madiha Salman, 44, and Salman Afzaal, 46, as well as family matriarch Talat Afzaal, 74. The lone survivor, a young boy, also spoke during the sentencing hearing.

   The judge’s ruling designating the attack as terrorism resulted in an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years for Veltman. Pomerance also handed down a concurrent life sentence for the attempted murder of the orphaned boy, the most severe penalty allowed under Canadian law. This marked a significant test of how Canada’s terror laws apply to white nationalists, sparking public debate and discussion.

   Relatives of the Afzaal family expressed relief after the sentencing, stating that the terrorism designation acknowledged the hate that fueled the attack. They also addressed the broader issue of normalized prejudice and fear of the “other” in Canadian society, highlighting the impact of hate hidden in plain sight.

   Pomerance emphasized the role of social media and the internet in amplifying and spreading messages of hate, cautioning against the ease with which hateful ideologies can reach a broad audience. While detailing Veltman’s racist and white supremacist views, the judge made it clear that such ideologies have no place in Canadian society and will not be given a platform in the legal proceedings.

   The Crown’s case against Veltman was described as overwhelming, with clear evidence pointing to deliberate anti-Muslim hate as the motivation for the attack. The judge’s ruling was seen as an essential step in holding perpetrators of terrorism against racialized minorities accountable, reflecting the need for all individuals to feel a sense of belonging and safety in Canadian society.

   The significance of the case extends beyond the tragedy itself, serving as a warning about the potential impact of extremist ideologies and the urgent need to address them. The ruling serves as a reminder of the vital role of the justice system in safeguarding the rights and safety of all individuals, regardless of their background or faith.

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