Guilty verdict for Muslim family truck attacker | Front Burner



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Hi I’m Damon Fairless while this verdict does not bring back our loved ones it is a recognition by the justice system that the perpetrator of these henis crimes is indeed a murderer this wasn’t just a crime against the Muslim Community but rather an attack against the Safety and Security of all

Canadians the enduring grief trauma and the Irreplaceable void left by the loss of multiple Generations has pierced us profoundly tabinda bukari is the mother of Maria sulman who along with four members of her family were violently struck by a pickup truck in June 2021 in London Ontario

The yals who were Muslim were out for an evening walk when they were attacked the only surviving member of the family was a 9-year-old boy and he was seriously injured at the time police labeled the attack an anti-muslim hate crime soon after and it was widely condemned across the

Country last Thursday the man driving that truck Nathaniel veltman was found guilty of four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder later in the episode The cbc’s Kate dein will be here to talk about what led up to that verdict but first henna Islam is a member of the upsal

Family she’s also a registered psychotherapist in London and she’s been providing trauma support for members of the city’s Muslim Community I Hannah thanks so much for coming on front burner hi thanks for having me here Hannah it’s been a few days since the verdict came came down how are you doing how are you feeling um we’ve had a lot of mixed emotions obviously there’s a lot of

Relief but um for for me um and a lot of us in the family it’s been a roller coaster of emotions so it’s um and and I the fact of the matter is our life is still uh we still have that um a massive hole U that will continue to exist and

Um the the verdict was uh def is definitely an important aspect towards our healing but um we’re just trying to figure out what’s the next step in moving forward now that that chapter is uh closing we have a large family a lot of Community Support as well so we’re

And we have our faith that uh helps guide us helps us move forward you work as a psychotherapist and and often with young people who are part of London’s Muslim Community there a lot of them I understand we friends of yumna ofel who was 15 years old at the time she was

Killed I’m wondering what the the experience of the young people you’re talking to has been like over the last couple years as they presumably work through the trauma from that attack obviously because of the nature of the attack and there was a child the murderer killed a child and

Orphaned another one a lot of Youth were impacted in our society often times the voices of Youth when it comes to grief is uh disenfranchised they’re they’re pushed back and it becomes um they’re often not heard and in this case where the impact of the crime it’s political

And so in in a political setting children’s voices are even further uh pushed back we don’t think they’re mature enough to to talk about this so we felt it was extremely important in this case to bring their voices forward and um a lot of the youth that I do work

With we um have used activism as a form of expressing the grief and it’s been very um it’s it’s a lovely way to be able to move forward so I work with the youth in the youth Coalition combating islamophobia which started right after the attack and it was a way it was an

Opportunity for the Youth to channel their emotions into productive actions and to advocate for not only our London family but to stand up against anti-muslim hate they’ve um for example created a mural at the the attack site and it’s reclaiming that space and then you know they’ve also engaged in

Creating an education curriculum for school boards because as we know the murderer was not too much older than these Youth and so it was it became very important for them to T tackle this problem from the from where it might have started and so that has allowed

Them to teach and take action themselves um about anti-muslim hate which often gets ignored so I think making sure the voices of Youth um is heard in in different ways was essential and it’s played a great role in their healing and uh empowering them to know that they

They should be heard and they can make a Difference so Thea’s family son was 9 years old when the rest of his family was killed and he was he was severely injured at the time and I know the family’s been very private about this and and actually I really don’t want to intrude but it’s one of the points of

This story that impacted me and I think impacted a lot of people as we were learning about it and I I just wonder if you’re comfortable sharing how he’s doing now um I mean we we definitely respect um the Privacy that people and media have given us uh it is difficult

Obviously and we’re trying to protect his privacy he is just a little child but uh I’ll say that uh he has lots of prayers and support from across Canada he’s got a large family and a very strong community that uh are very um that love him and pray for him take

Care of him he’s doing well and he’s healthy and happy and uh I think I’d leave it I’d leave it at that Hanah in the years since the killing there have been events to honor the UF cels there’s a Memorial Plaza built there’s the artwork that you talked about earlier

How will you remember Salman Madia yumna and and tell that um I I think the biggest thing I not only remember but try to keep alive through incorporating even in my own life is that they were and not just one individual person but the entire family was they kept others

In their hearts all the time they wanted to make sure that the other person was comfortable even if it meant over themselves and there’s so many examples of that that I can think of for each and every one of them and I try to incorporate that in my my life even with

Just a smile if you can brighten someone’s day with a smile then and it’s cost nothing on our part I try to do that I try to do that if I see someone is in distress to just you know open those doors of communication because that’s what something that they would

Have done so that’s uh that’s something one of their biggest memories that I keep with me all the time and try to incorporate in in my own life Anna thanks so much uh it’s it’s been great talking to you and and I’m really sorry for the loss that you and

Your family have endured thank you thank you so Much for more on the verdict I’m joined by Kate dubinsky she’s a CBC news reporter in London Ontario and she’s been following the trial hi Kate thanks so much for coming on front burner thanks for having me Damon all right so can you take me back to Thursday when uh

The verdict came down Nathaniel veltman was found guilty on four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder it took the jurors less than 6 hours of deliberation to make up their minds the evidence proved what was the feeling like in the courtroom well

It was really tense so it’s been a really long 2 and 1/2 years since the attack happened and it’s been a long two months of trial and months of testimony that included a lot of racist islamophobic things being said in that courtroom so the evidence pointed toward

A guilty verdict you know since the beginning but you just never know what a jury is going to do the gallery of the courtroom was packed uh the judge said she knew that it was going to be emotional whatever happened but to try our best not to react uh when that first

Guil y verdict was said there were sort of relieved gasps sobs lots of people hugging and crying and you know coming together because this had been such an emotional and tense uh tense moment and what was Nathaniel belman’s reaction like nothing he just sat there straight-faced sort of stone-faced

Looking straight ahead uh as he did for most of the trial no reaction um obviously it’s been a really emotional time for people close to the Fel family and for the larger Muslim Community in London I guess I’m curious were there were there is there anything any moments that that stood out last

Week that’ll that’ll stay with you you know I think it was um right after the verdict we we heard the verdict everything sort of all the bureaucratic stuff happened afterwards and uh the media was gathered outside on the front steps of the courtroom and tabinda bukari came outside now she’s the mom of

One of the victims she’s and um an older Pakistani woman she came out flanked by family members by supporters we the relatives of of our beloved our London family Salman talat medha yumai F wish to convey our gratitude for the support and solidarity expressed during these last two and a half difficult

Years and she had the strong strong voice and she talked about the verdict bringing some sense of justice um that the moment of attack saw the worst in humanity but also the best that gter position between the Diabolical intentions of a hellbent criminal and the love expressed by beautiful teary eyed

Strangers has become a catalyst for Unity and Justice that moment when she came out and uh and said thank you um and and expressed her thoughts that that moment will definitely stick with me now now before that the the jury deliberated for only six hours before deciding on a

Verdict can you can you just take us through I guess fairly quickly some of the key evidence that was presented before they came to that verdict yeah one of the key pieces of evidence was this hours long interview that uh the accused did with a detective in the

Hours after the attack so um he basically told the police officer that he had been planning the attack since March it was terrorism but I’m not going to I’m not going to like I’m not going to try to get a lighter sentence by saying it was just murder not terrorism

He said that at that point he had been watching hours and hours of far-right material he called it a farri online rabbit hole that he uh fell down uh and he explained his views to the detective that he wanted to commit a terrorist act he wanted to send a message to Muslims

In Canada to get out and to Muslims in the UK um and others to not come here and he also wanted to send a message to other angry young men that you can do this too even if you have no access to a gun he said he was inspired by other

White nationalists and he wanted to inspire others so he said all of this in this hours long interview with a detective and then we heard that you know before June 6th 2021 he bought a truck he outfitted it with a gigantic grill bar or push bar you know he

Researched how quickly uh the speeds of cars at which uh pedestrians are more likely to die there was a there’s a piece of paper with his handwriting found uh and he wrote a document called a white Awakening A Manifesto where he mimicked uh some of the words that other

White supremacists had used in their manifestos um and we watched the uh video surveillance as he drove um it it stopped right at the moment of impact right before uh right before he ran over that family Now you mentioned his Manifesto and I know in in the trial the jury had some of that read out to them but there there’s a lot of stuff that they they didn’t see right yeah the jurors um did not get to read the full Manifesto that he wrote it was heavily redacted so

There were some parts that were read aloud in court but they also didn’t get to to hear that officers found a copy of mine comp uh by Adolf Hitler and other materials written by white supremacists in veltman’s apartment that was kept from the jurors um you know they didn’t

Get to hear that he quoted heavily from mine comp in the in his Manifesto um and they also didn’t hear that he had a hate on for abortion doctors he actually uh told the detective that he considered making uh abortion doctors his Target he had pages and pages of abortion clinic

Addresses printed out at his apartment and directions to One Clinic in Toronto on his phone and do do you have a sense of what the rationale for withholding those things from the jury was yeah it was because in Canada bad character evidence is not allowed and so the judge

Thought that it would sort of um impede his right to a fair trial so the judge said over and over again he’s not on trial for his beliefs his beliefs might be antithetical to everything the jury uh might think but he’s not on trial for his beliefs he’s on trial for this

Particular action and so the fact that he you know didn’t like abortion doctors had no bearing on the fact that he killed a Muslim family so so coming out of it what’s the portrait that was that was drawn of velman uh what what came out in the trial of of the kind of

Person he was yeah well the portrait that he painted of himself was one of this uh kid who grew up in a strict Christian home he was homeschooled he didn’t have a lot of friends um a psychiatrist that testified uh for the defense uh talked about him probably

Being on the autism spectrum that he had obsessive compulsive disorder that he was depressed I was at the end of my rope veltman said in this state of mental deterioration being tormented by horrible thoughts but I think ultimately uh the picture that we had of him was of

This really angry screwed up young man who spent hours and hours a day online veltman testified he spent 12 hours a day or more watching watching online conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones now they’re com for all of our freed um and that he schemed to put this plot

Together alone he he didn’t have any you know connections to any uh far-right groups or anything like that he made sure he said that he was very careful about not getting on any government watch lists and ultimately appears it appears that the jury believed what the prosecution was saying that he set out

To kill Muslims that day and that that family just happened to be uh his Target So Kate when you were on the show last time we talked about how this trial would test Canada’s terrorism law do we know how the terror charges factored into the jury’s deliberations it’s the first time that terrorism could be considered by a jury as a way to get to

A first deegree murder verdict so usually first-degree murder means a murder that is planned and that is deliberate but uh the jury here could consider whether or not they also thought that it was terrorist activity which is defined as um an act that’s motivated an act of violence that’s

Motivated by religious ideological or political purposes and that it’s uh done the that the motive is to intimidate a segment of the population so in this case Muslims so we actually don’t know what the jury thought because we don’t know what jurors uh what happens in deliberation rooms in Canada in in

Juries so um when the jury was pulled all of them all of them were asked whether or not they agree with the first deegree verdict and they all said agreed with very strong loud voices but we won’t find out what uh Factor the terrorism charges played in the jury’s

Deliberations so so even when the sentencing comes down we won’t have a sense of that that’s when the judge steps in and so she she is ultimately it’s called the ultimate finder of fact so she does what’s called a finding of fact and she reads out what she thinks

Was a fact in this um in this trial and what wasn’t what she believed and what she didn’t from all the evidence so she will ultimately say did she think that this was terrorism or she could say it now that will affect what programs uh velopment might get in prison and what

The parole board will hear about his crimes when he eventually comes up for parole so K can you give me a sense of kind of sentence development might be facing yeah well we know uh that the sentence in Canada for first deegree murder is life in prison with no chance

Of parole for 25 years that’s non-negotiable no matter how many people you kill um that’s the sentence so that is what he will be Serving so I I want to move away from The Trial now and and talk about the impact this has had on the the community the Muslim Community in particular in London obviously it’s been a a hugely emotional time a really difficult time what have people been saying about how they’ve

Been coping with this yeah well it’s been very difficult um you know during the course of the trial as I said there’s been some very racist very islamophobic things said in court um the things that he said in his Manifesto his beliefs um and Muslim community members

Have told me that they’re just so glad it’s over and that there is a sense that justice has been served that he was found guilty um but they’re also glad that this has been a time that they’ve been able to shine a light on the islamophobia that they face every day

Especially people who are visibly Muslim this family was targeted uh he said he saw that they were wearing traditional Pakistani clothing and that’s why he targeted this family and so that’s really been a vehicle for people who wear traditional Islamic clothing every day to say you know we face islamophobia

Every single day and we need to talk about it and so this idea that this doesn’t happen in Canada is just not true and here’s here’s an extreme example of of where that leads but also the day-to-day um things that people face have have really come to the

Forefront so just a couple follow-ups on that I I guess I’m curious what kind of support has been provided in the community if if any yeah well the federal government did announce that they would provide um just over $200,000 in funding for a Community Support Program through the Muslim Resource

Center here in London and uh there has been a lot of coming together of people within the Muslim Community you know um therapists imams who are talking to each other and talking to their Community saying let’s talk about this let’s you know let one of the victims was a

15-year-old girl um this horrible attack really impacted all of her friends and people young people in the community um and so there’s a real sense of of sharing what is going on and and coming together and sort of helping each other through um through some of the more

Difficult aspects of the trial and of the of the um some of the horrible things that people face every day and then I guess the other thing I want to follow up on is that that this verdict has come to time of heightened tension a lot of hate speech including increased

Instance of islamophobia so I guess I’m I’m curious how worried folks are in London in the community that something like this could happen again they’re they’re worried H someone talked about that after um after the verdict you know that exactly like you said there are heightened tensions there’s increasing

Incidents of islamophobia as this verdict comes down and they are worried that smaller attacks could happen or bigger attacks but they also said that the the verdict gives them some comfort because it shows that actions will not go without consequences and so they hope that it sends a message

To someone else contemplating an attack or sitting in their room thinking about doing something like this that it will come with consequences and it will come with the harshest uh consequences that we have under Canadian law right thanks so much Kate I I really appreciate you

Coming on and talking about this with us thanks for having me Damon I appreciate it that’s all for today I’m Damon Fess thanks for listening to Front Burner we talk to you Tomorrow

In the wake of Nathaniel Veltman’s guilty verdict, there’s relief but also fear inside London’s Muslim community.

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