Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s national security adviser spoke with his counterpart in New Zealand days after a Muslim family was killed in an alleged targeted attack in London, Ont., according to new documents obtained by Global News.
Vincent Rigby, Trudeau’s adviser, and Tony Lynch, New Zealand’s deputy chief of national security, discussed the Ontario killings and the “challenges from hate-motivated violent extremist ideologies” on June 16 — ten days after the incident.
The memo to the Canadian prime minister also revealed for the first time that police said they found a knife “close by” when the suspect, Nathaniel Veltman, was arrested six kilometres from the scene of the incident that took the lives of four family members. It also indicated the alleged attacker was wearing a bulletproof vest.
The new details are contained in briefing notes prepared for the prime minister and other documents released to Global News under the Access to Information Act.
Multiple sources with knowledge of the investigation told Global News last week that Veltman’s alleged crimes were inspired by the Christchurch gunman, Brenton Tarrant, who took 51 lives at two New Zealand mosques two years ago. They also said that ideological writings, some allegedly written by Veltman himself, were seized.
Global News has not reviewed the materials sources say were found in the accused’s home and truck.
These apparent discoveries might have informed the Crown’s decision to modify the charges against him from first-degree murder to murder-terrorist activity. Five months after the alleged attack, however, authorities have released very few details about what might have motivated the alleged crime. The allegations against Veltman have not been proven in court.
“This incident is yet another reminder of how pervasive and entrenched the problem of ideologically motivated violent extremism is in our societies, and the challenge of identifying perpetrators of these heinous acts, particularly before they carry them out,” said a section of the memo outlining Rigby’s talking points.
The RCMP declined to comment on the allegations. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service likewise did not address the case, but said that extremists “draw inspiration from a variety of sources” such as online discussions, videos and conversations.
In a statement to Global News, Lynch said the meeting was part of a “regular pattern of contact with the Canadian National Security Advisor. Naturally sympathies were expressed in the wake of the June 6 senseless terror attack.”
“New Zealand and Canada work closely together on a range of related issues, including on the Christchurch Call to eliminate terrorism and violent extremist content online,” he said.
The Afzaal family were out for an evening walk when they were struck by a pickup truck allegedly driven by Veltman. Salman Afzaal, 46, his 44-year-old wife, Madiha Salman, their 15-year-old daughter, Yumna, and her 74-year-old grandmother, Talat Afzaal, were killed. The couple’s son, nine years old at the time, was seriously injured but survived.
Two days later, the Privy Council Office briefed Trudeau on what it called a “targeted vehicle ramming.”
The memo said the incident was being investigated as a “violent extremist act,” and the RCMP’s Integrated National Security Enforcement Team had taken on the case on June 7.
The parts of the memo not blacked out by officials prior to its public release did not mention New Zealand.
But a week after the memo was written, officials began briefing Rigby for a phone call with New Zealand’s top national security official.
The briefing said the objectives of the call had “not been specified” but the top item on the agenda was the “London attack.”
“There is evidence that this was a planned, premeditated act, motivated by hate,” the briefing said.
It also said Canada hoped to learn from New Zealand’s experience, and asked about the implementation of the recommendations of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch attack.
Privy Council Office spokesperson Pierre-Alain Bujold declined to respond to further questions about the memo citing “national security concerns.”
“As fellow members of the Five-Eyes, the Canadian National Security and Intelligence Advisor (NSIA) is in frequent communication with his New Zealand counterpart,” he said in an email.
Bujold also noted that Rigby has retired from public service and David Morrison is currently serving as Trudeau’s national security adviser.
Mustafa Farooq, CEO of the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) said governments at all levels need to take stronger action to combat Islamophobia and hate.
“I can’t keep showing up at funerals and learning afterward about how they were motivated. You know, how much white supremacist literature did they consume? I don’t want to do that anymore,” he told Global News in a previous interview.
“Canadian-Muslims don’t want to do that anymore. That’s why it has to stop. It has to change.”
Christopher Hicks, the lawyer representing the accused, said “a knife or knives cannot be attributed to Mr. Veltman with respect to this incident nor upon his arrest.”
“I cannot possibly imagine any connection between Canada’s & New Zealand’s security services that would be relevant to Mr. Veltman’s matter,” Hicks said in an email.
Hicks also pushed back against Global News’ earlier reporting saying that “sources with direct knowledge of the investigation’ are compromised sources” and the “information was not legitimately obtained by them.”
Veltman, currently held at London’s Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre, was scheduled to appear in court Wednesday morning.