“The Gray Area of Terrorism: Nathaniel Veltman Trial Culminates in a Guilty Verdict”
TORONTO – A landmark trial that put Canada’s terrorism laws in the spotlight has culminated in a guilty verdict for Nathaniel Veltman, but the extent to which terror allegations influenced the jury’s decision remains shrouded in mystery.
Jurors found the 22-year-old Veltman guilty of four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder for hitting the Afzaal family with his truck while they were out for a walk in London, Ont., on June 6, 2021. However, the judge has instructed the jury that a first-degree murder verdict could also be reached if the killings were considered to be terrorist activity.
Nevertheless, the decisions made by the jury remain undisclosed as juries are not required to provide details of their decision-making process. The judge in the case is expected to weigh in on the terror aspect during the sentencing process.
Veltman’s Lawyer Perspective
Veltman’s lawyer, Christopher Hicks, stated that the jury’s decision does not specify whether Veltman was found guilty of first-degree murder under the Criminal Code, planning and deliberation, or because of the terrorism allegation. He added that the finding of terrorist activity would not affect the penalty for first-degree murder, which automatically carries a sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.
Implications of the Trial
The Veltman trial was the first to bring Canada’s terrorism laws before a jury in a first-degree murder trial. Additionally, it also marked the first murder case involving terror allegations based on an association with white supremacy. This case, along with a few others, is anticipated to challenge the ambiguity in the terror law’s definition of ideology, particularly when there is no association to a specific group.
Challenges in the Trial Process
The task of sifting through the details of the verdict is complicated by the fact that the case was heard by a jury, rather than a judge. This complicates the process of understanding the precedential value of the decision. However, information may be gleaned from the judge’s instructions to the jury and at the appeal level, if those instructions are found to be flawed.
The trial of Nathaniel Veltman sheds light on the complexities and challenges in dealing with terror-related cases, particularly those associated with white supremacy and conducted by individuals acting alone. With factors such as an ambiguous definition of ideology and a jury trial, the case has shown the need for a thorough review and clarification of Canada’s terrorism laws.