In a landmark trial that tested Canada’s anti-terrorism laws, Nathaniel Veltman, a 22-year-old self-confessed Canadian white nationalist, was found guilty of first-degree murder for deliberately running over and killing four members of a Pakistani family.
The family, out for a stroll in London, Ontario, on June 6, 2021, suffered the loss of 46-year-old Salman Afzaal, his 44-year-old wife Madiha Salman, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna, and Salman’s mother, 74-year-old Talat Afzaal.
Despite the tragedy, the couple’s nine-year-old child managed to survive, albeit with severe injuries. The jury, comprising twelve members, deliberated for less than six hours before delivering the verdict in Windsor’s Superior Courthouse.
“He was hunting for Muslims to kill,” prosecutor Fraser Ball said in closing arguments, adding that Veltman had donned body armour and a shirt bearing a crusader emblem.
As the guilty verdict was announced, emotional reactions filled the courtroom, resonating within London’s Muslim community and among friends of the affected family. The relatives expressed solace, emphasizing the imperative for continued efforts to combat all forms of hatred in Canada.
Tabinda Bukhari, speaking on behalf of the family, declared, “This wasn’t just a crime against the Muslim community, but rather, an attack against the safety and security of all Canadians.” The National Council of Muslims (NCCM) expressed relief, acknowledging the profound impact of the attack on Canadian Muslims’ perception of their country.
While Nathaniel Veltman faces a life sentence with no parole for 25 years, the sentencing will also address whether the crime meets the threshold for terrorism. Justice Renee Pomerance will determine the severity of punishment, considering the hate-fueled nature of the attack.
The trial unfolded over eleven weeks, revealing Veltman’s white nationalist ideologies and his consumption of far-right and anti-Muslim content online. The case not only brought justice to the Afzaal family but also prompted a national reflection on combating hatred in all its forms.
The London mayor, Josh Morgan, emphasized the collective responsibility to confront and eliminate such sentiments, ensuring that tragedies like these never recur.