Toronto marks 5th anniversary of van attack with memorial

Click to play video: 'City mourns during 5th anniversary of Toronto van attack'
City mourns during 5th anniversary of Toronto van attack
WATCH: City councillors, neighbours and families of the victims of the Toronto van attack gathered on Sunday afternoon to remember the 11 people killed, marking the attack's fifth anniversary. Ahmar Khan reports – Apr 23, 2023

TORONTO — Dozens of mourners shared a moment of somber silence on Sunday as they gathered to mark the anniversary of a deadly van attack that shook Toronto five years ago.

Relatives of the attack’s 11 victims, politicians and community members listened quietly as the names of those killed on April 23, 2018, were read aloud in a movie theatre near the scene of the crime.

The attack, which killed 10 people at the time and saw another woman die of her injuries years later, occurred when a man deliberately drove a van down a bustling stretch of Yonge Street. It has been described as one of Canada’s worst mass murders.

The memorial event was meant to make sure the victims of the attack aren’t forgotten, said organizer Omar Hassan.

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“We want to make sure that we have a space where we can still remember the victims and those who were affected by the tragedy … to come together in a shared space so that we can find a way to heal as a community,” Hassan said, noting he still remembers the sounds as he came upon the scene that day.

“It is difficult to put into words, but grief, people screaming, people crying.”

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Local politicians also reflected on how the attack forever changed the fabric of the city.

“It was unfathomable then, and still shocking now, to think how our innocence as a community and as a city was lost,” said Coun. Lily Cheng, who represents the neighbourhood where the attack took place.

“The violence and loss of life will remain a scar on many of our hearts, especially those who have lost loved ones or have endured life-changing injuries.”

Click to play video: 'The family of Anne Marie D’Amico continues to memorialize their loved one'
The family of Anne Marie D’Amico continues to memorialize their loved one

The indoor gathering marked the first part of Sunday’s commemorative events. At an outdoor ceremony later in the day, dozens of family members, community members and public figures circled Mel Lastman Reflection pool and cast paper boats, with tiny LED lights in them, onto the pool as a singer sang and played a guitar.

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Betty Forsyth, Ji Hun Kim, Sohe Chung, Geraldine Brady, Chul Min Kang, Anne Marie D’Amico, Munir Najjar, Dorothy Sewell, Andrea Bradden and Renuka Amarasingha died in the attack. Amaresh Tesfamariam died from her injuries more than three years later.

Alek Minassian was found guilty of 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder.

He claimed at his trial to be angered by women who wouldn’t sleep with him and to have been radicalized on the internet. The presiding judge found he carried out the van attack to achieve notoriety.

Minassian was sentenced to life in prison last year with no possibility of parole for 25 years. He’s appealing his conviction.

Toronto residents who live and work in the area where the attack took place have said they still have vivid memories of the rampage and the devastation it brought.

The City of Toronto has previously indicated plans for a permanent memorial honouring the lives lost in the attack are still being finalized.

In a statement released to mark the fifth anniversary, Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie acknowledged plans remain in the works.

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“In the coming months, the City will be working with a community advisory committee to launch a design competition for a permanent memorial to honour the victims’ memories and the resilience of the local community,” the statement read.

“The City consulted with the families of victims to develop a vision for the memorial, and will continue to be guided by their input.”

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