Sheldon Kirshner

A Just Canadian Verdict

Justice was served in London, Ontario, on February 22 when Nathaniel Veltman was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for 25 years in a case that revolved around pure, unadulterated racism.

Veltman, 23, was convicted of first-degree murder and attempted murder after deliberately ramming his pickup truck into four total strangers out on a walk in London in June 2021. His hapless victims were three generations of a Pakistani Muslim Canadian family: Salman Afzaal, 46, his mother Talat, 74, his wife Madiha, 44, and their daughter Yumnah, 15.

During his 10-week trial, Veltman, an avowed white supremacist, admitted he had aimed his vehicle at the Afzaals simply on the basis of their Pakistani-style clothing. The deranged Veltman wanted to kill Muslims.

His lawyers did not challenge the prosecutor’s assertion that this was a targeted act of murder and, therefore, an open-and-shut case. They argued that their client, suffering from mental illness, had committed an impulsive act and had been unable to control “an urge or obsession to put his foot on the gas” of his truck.

The presiding judge, Justice Renee Pomerance of the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario, did not buy this specious argument. Ruling that he had been motivated by white supremacy, she said, “One might go so far as to characterize this as a textbook example of terrorist motive and intent. He wanted to intimidate the Muslim community. He wanted to follow in the footsteps of other mass killers, and he wanted to inspire others to commit murderous acts.”

She added, “The offender did not know the victims. He had never met them. He killed them because they were Muslim.” Her “inescapable conclusion” was that Veltman had committed an act of terrorism.

This was an important, precedent-shattering verdict in the annals of Canadian jurisprudence, the first against a right-wing extremist who was shaped by a corrosive and destructive ideology.

As the prosecutor, Sarah Sheikh, correctly noted, Veltman not only directed his rage at the Afzaal family, but at the entire Muslim community. “It was an attack on values that we, as Canadians, hold very dear — inclusiveness, community decency and multiculturalism.”

At a moment when antisemitism is on the rise in Canada, following the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war last October, Pomerance delivered a message of major importance. The verdict she handed down not only equates such crimes with terrorism, but puts all violent racists on notice that they will spend the rest of their miserable lives in prison should they choose to emulate Veltman.

Malcontents like Veltman must know that racial hatred, once tolerated and so common in Canada, has no place whatsoever in Canadian society today.

About the Author
Sheldon Kirshner is a journalist in Toronto. He writes at his online journal,
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