The attack that killed four members of a Muslim family was an example of Canada’s “most deadly extremist threat,” the prime minister’s national security adviser said on Tuesday.
In a speech to the Centre for International Governance Innovation, Vincent Rigby began by addressing the alleged vehicle attack he said had targeted a family “based on their Islamic faith.”
“Ideologically motivated violent extremism, or IMVE, in particular poses a growing threat to Canadian national security, and is our most deadly extremist threat,” Rigby said later in his address.
“And sadly we’ve seen this play out in recent days.”
IMVE is the term now used by the federal government to describe violence fueled by far-right and other extremist beliefs, as opposed to religiously or politically-motivated violence.
Four members of the Afzaal family were killed and a fifth was injured when they were rammed Sunday by a pickup truck. The London Police Service has alleged they were deliberately targeted because they were Muslims.
Nathaniel Veltman, 20, has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder. He was scheduled to appear in court on Thursday.
According to friends and co-workers, Veltman worked at an egg processing plant in Strathroy, Ont., about 40 km west of London, where he lived in a downtown apartment.
The London Police Service was spotted entering Strathroy’s Gray Ridge Egg Farms on Tuesday. The police force declined to comment. Strathroy police said it was supporting the investigation.
Gray Ridge Egg Farms said Veltman was a part-time employee at its Strathroy plant and that it was “shocked and saddened” to learn of his alleged role in the attack.
“We join our community is expressing condemnation of this violent attack and offer our heartfelt sympathy to the family and the Muslim community,” CEO William Gray said in a statement.
A former co-worker, Arman Moradpourian, told Global News that Veltman was home-schooled in his early years, left home as a teen, and began working at the egg company about four years ago.
He worked alongside people of all backgrounds without any problems, he said.
Moradpourian, who said he was raised as a Muslim, said Veltman was “very Christian” and would quote from the Bible, but never treated him differently.
“The Nate I know, I’m not sure what’s happened to him. Me and few friends were talking today and wondering if he hasn’t been brainwashed by white supremacists online,” he said.
“It’s quite a shock.”
Another co-worker, Kyle DeWeerd, said Veltman bought his truck a month ago.
“He was religious, he read the Bible a lot,” DeWeerd said. “The Nate that I know, this seems very out of character.”
But Hasan Savehilaghi, president of Yellow London Taxi, said a colleague told him he saw Veltman wearing an army-style helmet and what looked like body armor, possibly with swastikas on the front and back.
Veltman was aggressive and swearing at him to call police because he had “killed someone,” he said.
When police showed up he was laughing and him to film the arrest. Once put in the police car, he began chanting, but the cab driver couldn’t make out what he was saying, he said.
Facebook said it had deleted Veltman’s account on Monday.
“There is absolutely no place on our platform for people who commit such horrendous acts. We have found and immediately deleted the suspect’s Facebook account,” a Facebook company spokesperson said.
Strathroy was also the small town where police killed Aaron Driver as he was leaving his home to allegedly conduct a bombing in support of the so-called Islamic State.
Attacks categorized as IMVE include xenophobic violence such as the 2017 Quebec City mosque attack that killed six, as well as a Toronto attack allegedly fueled by misogynist Incel ideology.
Anti-authority violence is also a form of IMVE.
“IMVE radicalization is more often caused by a combination of ideas and grievances resulting in a personalized worldview that is inspired by a variety of sources including books, videos, online discussions, and conversations,” according to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s latest annual report.
“These individuals and cells often act without a clear affiliation to a specific organized group or external guidance, but are nevertheless shaped by hateful voices and messages online that normalize and advocate violence.”