Judge to decide whether North York massage parlour murder a terrorist act 

Click to play video: 'Judge reserves decision on whether North York massage parlour murder was act of terrorism'
Judge reserves decision on whether North York massage parlour murder was act of terrorism
WATCH ABOVE: A decision over whether or not a murder in a North York massage parlour was a terrorist act will impact sentencing and would be a precedent the judge explained. Catherine McDonald reports – May 23, 2023

Did the vicious attack on two female sex workers in a North York massage parlour in February 2020, leaving one dead, constitute an act of terrorism?

That’s the question Superior Court Justice Suhail Akhtar must decide prior to a sentencing hearing for the man who pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and attempted murder last September. The killer’s identity is covered by a publication ban because he was only 17 years old at the time.

The decision will impact sentencing and would be a precedent if Akhtar decides it was a terrorist act, the judge explained.

In a University Avenue courtroom Tuesday, Lisa Mathews, general counsel for the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, argued that on Feb. 24, 2020, when the teen walked into Crown Spa, at Dufferin Street and Wilson Avenue, murdering employee 24-year-old Ashley Arzaga and viciously trying to murder another sex worker, the teen was motivated in whole or in part by the incel ideology and that the act constitutes terrorism.

Story continues below advertisement

His intention, she said, was to intimidate the public before pointing out there was ample evidence he was motivated by the ideology. “Mostly by what he said himself,” added Mathews.

Mathews said that the teen arrived at Crown Spa carrying a hand-engraved sword that said “thot slayer” on it. The teen told police ‘thot’, which stands for “that ho over there”, meant ‘slut’ or ‘unclaimed women’. The teen “targeted two sex workers at their place of employment, because they were “sluts”, Mathews added.

The surviving victim whose identity is covered by a publication ban testified that during the machete attack, the teen made denigrating comments about her sexuality, before saying, “die, die, die’.

Furthermore, a note that said “long live the incel rebellion” was found in the teen’s pocket after committing the offence. The teen explained to investigators that he carried it in his pocket because incels exist and life is not fair for incels. Incels refers to an online subculture of so-called “involuntary celibates” — men who have been rejected sexually by women and who foster hatred.

The incel rebellion was a term first used by Alek Minassian, the so-called “Toronto van attack killer”, who Mathews explained used the expression as a “rise-up to punish women”.

The teen who was dressed in a Matrix-like black outfit also had an online Steam gaming profile in which he describes himself as an incel or hater of women. “This is corroborated by his statement that the attack was a suicide attempt. That he left something on his Steam profile to find,” Mathews explained.

Story continues below advertisement

Mathews told the court the teen identified with Elliot Rodger and said Minassian was his inspiration for action. Rodger killed six people and injured 14 others near the University of California Santa Barbara campus, before killing himself in May 2014. Rodger planned the misogynistic attack for months to exact revenge, and posted a YouTube video about the attack.

Minassian killed 11 people and injured 15 others by driving a van down a crowded Yonge Street sidewalk in April 2018. Before carrying out the attack, he posted on Facebook, “The Incel Rebellion has already begun!”

“He blamed women for their predicament, with the perceived need for some infamy within the incel community,” Mathews explained. “The teen in committing these offences was motivated in whole or in part by the incel ideology.”

Referring to the sword at the scene, the note in his pocket, and his online Steam profile, Mathews added, “He believed he would be killed by police and they would be left behind. The incel note in his pocket was also a message to the public. He wanted everyone to know that the world was not safe from incels.”

Mathews explained his intention of intimidating a segment of the public with a horrific attack on women.

Before defence attorney Maurice Mattis began his submissions, Justice Akhtar told the court he didn’t believe the issue was whether the teen was motivated by the incel movement. “I don’t think there’s any dispute here he was claiming he was an incel. That part of it is conceded by defence. But defence is saying that incel doesn’t fall within the terrorist ideology,” Akhtar said.

Story continues below advertisement

Mathews argued that there’s no question incel is an ideology. “He intended to cause a threat in the world by signposting and looking back to others who have done the same. He sees himself as a footsoldier in the ideology.”

Akhtar asked, “The question is, does that ideology fall within the definition of terror,” wondering aloud that if he finds that the teen’s actions fall within the terrorism offence, in support of the incel ideology, will that effectively be a declaration that anyone who commits violence with the incel ideology falls within terrorism.

“I’m trying to understand where this ruling goes,” he added.

Mattis argued the incel movement is not organized enough to be considered an ideology. “It’s nothing more than people giving their views and comments on a website,” he told the court.

He added Alek Minassian and Alexandre Bissonette, who fatally shot six people and injured five others in a Quebec City mosque in January 2017, both who professed connections to incel, were never charged.

“The legislation was passed 22 years ago, Minassian said he was inspired by the incel ideology, we are saying if it was that easy, it would have been picked up, anyone who would have said they are antisemitic, they would fall into that category,” Mattis argued.

Akhtar questioned whether the reason the charge hasn’t been laid is “because the incel subculture is relatively new.”

Story continues below advertisement

Mattis countered, “I think a floodgate will open if the definition is too broad. If you rule it, we will see a slew of hate crimes being pulled into the terrorism legislation.”

Justice Akhtair reserved his decision on whether the murder constituted terrorism, saying he would decide before the sentencing hearing, which is set for next month.

“I understand this is a novel issue and it needs a bit of examination and both sides have put their positions well,” Akhtar added, thanking both sides.

The provincial Crown attorneys have indicated they will be seeking to have the teen, who is now 20, sentenced as an adult.

If sentenced as a youth, the maximum sentence for first-degree murder is a 10-year sentence. This is the same maximum sentence whether or not it is a terrorist activity. It would be served concurrently with the sentence for attempted murder.

If sentenced as a youth and the judge finds that the offences were terrorist activities, the accused could also then be liable for consecutive sentences.

Click to play video: 'Incels are targeting the “next generation of extremists” online'
Incels are targeting the “next generation of extremists” online

Sponsored content