Canada truck attack: Man accused of killing Muslim family goes on trial

According to court testimony, a Canadian man accused of terrorism and murder left his residence intending to ram his vehicle into a Muslim family.

In a trial in Windsor, Ontario, Nathaniel Veltman, age 22, is charged with four counts of terrorism-motivated first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.

In 2021, he was accused of intentionally driving his vehicle into the Afzaal family while they were out for an evening stroll in London, Ontario. Mr. Veltman has entered a not-guilty plea.

This is the first time in Canadian history that a jury has heard arguments on terrorism related to white supremacy.

Salman Afzaal, 46, and his wife Madiha Salman, 44, as well as their daughter Yumna Afzaal, 15, and Mr. Afzaal's mother Talat Afzaal, 74, were killed in the attack. The couple's nine-year-old son suffered severe injuries but survived.

Prosecutors contend that Mr. Veltman, who was 20 years old at the time of his arrest, was motivated by hatred and white nationalist ideologies when he allegedly drove his vehicle over the curb and struck the Pakistani-Canadian Muslim Afzaal family.

During opening arguments on Monday, prosecutor Sarah Shaikh told the 14 jurors that he "left his home with a specific goal in mind: to find Muslims to murder."

Ms. Shaikh reported that the suspect informed police after the attack that he knew what he did and he has no regrets. He acknowledged it was terrorism and it  was 100% politically motivated.

Monday, prosecutors informed the court that the defendant bought his vehicle two weeks prior to the attack and had planned the rampage for three months. Ms. Shaikh added that a manifesto in which he characterizes himself as a white nationalist was discovered in his apartment after the attack.

Law experts in Canada will closely monitor the trial to determine if the country's terrorism charges, enacted in response to the 11 September attacks in the United States, can be applied to someone who purportedly targeted a Muslim family.

Andrew Botterell, a law professor at the University of Western Ontario, told the sources, "If the Crown prevails in this case, we would have a much broader and more inclusive definition of terrorism that could, in theory, be applied to many other offenses."

Even if the terrorism charge is unsuccessfully contested, the jury could still find the accused guilty of first-degree murder, according to Prof. Botterell.

Mr Veltman was apprehended in a parking lot close to London's oldest mosque, where the Afzaal family were devoted members, shortly after the attack on 6 June 2021.

The suspect appeared to be donning body armor and a helmet, according to police. The assault sent waves of grief and dread throughout Canada as London's close-knit Muslim community mourned the loss of a beloved family member.

It also prompted demands for anti-Islamophobia measures in the country. He added that the trial was significant because it represented the first time in Canadian history that Islamophobic violence was classified as terrorism.

The case will be overseen by Justice Renee Pomerance of the Superior Court. 

The court is anticipated to hear Mr. Veltman's defense arguments later in the trial. Judge Pomerance stated on Monday that she anticipates the trial to last approximately eight weeks.