Canadian trial spotlights rise of far-right extremism

London (Caasimada Online) – On the evening of June 6, 2021, London, Ontario, was the backdrop for a horrifying act. As the Afzaal family—a father, mother, daughter, grandmother, and a young son—enjoyed a peaceful walk, tragedy struck.

Nathaniel Veltman, 22, allegedly drove his truck into the family, killing four of them.

The sole survivor was the couple’s nine-year-old son, now left to grapple with the trauma of that fateful night.

Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna, and 74-year-old grandmother, Talat Afzaal, met a brutal end that evening.

Through Sarah Shaikh, Prosecutors presented that Veltman had meticulously planned this attack three months in advance.

They detailed how he accelerated “pedal to the metal” towards the family, with the vehicle’s surge onto the sidewalk shrouded in a dust cloud. The motive? Shaikh said Veltman targeted the family “because they were Muslims.”

Inside Veltman’s mind: A dark ideology unveiled

During the investigation, the disturbing depths of Veltman’s beliefs came to light.

Sarah Shaikh told the jury that upon being apprehended, Veltman admitted to having been inspired by the 2019 Christchurch shootings, where a white nationalist massacred 51 people.

On his computer, authorities discovered two versions of a manifesto titled “A White Awakening.” Veltman’s own words to detectives were chillingly straightforward.

“I don’t regret what I did. I admit that it was terrorism. This was politically motivated, 100%,” he reportedly stated.

Equipped with body armor, a helmet, and concealed bladed weapons in his vehicle, Veltman appeared prepared for even more violence.

Shaikh’s account of the aftermath was harrowing, highlighting Veltman’s audacity.

He purportedly approached a taxi driver at a nearby mall, confessing, “It’s me. It was me that did it. Tell them I did it and come and arrest me.”

Implications for Canada’s counter-terrorism laws

Canada was left reeling in the aftermath of the attack, with shockwaves of grief and calls for action against Islamophobia echoing across the nation.

More significantly, Veltman’s trial might reshape how Canada prosecutes far-right extremism.

Canada’s anti-terrorism laws, sculpted post the September 11 attacks, demand the Crown demonstrate that an accused’s actions were fuelled by politics, religion, or ideology, aiming to instill public fear. Traditionally, this legislation tackled violence linked to Islamist extremism.

However, Veltman’s trial, now shifted to Windsor from London, represents one of the first instances where the law confronts suspected far-right motives.

As Canada watches closely, this trial, expected to span eight weeks, stands not only as a judgment for a man and a heinous act but also as a testament to Canada’s resolve against all forms of extremism.