Crime is a question that has baffled humanity since the onset of civilization, which is why it has taken a scientific approach to finding answers. The motivation to commit a crime varies depending on the agenda driving the perpetrators. Thus, criminal justice professionals must understand the types of crimes committed to identify the motivations of such atrocities and prevent them from occurring. A crime perpetrated in Canada that has captured the public’s attention was the 2018 Toronto van attack. The attack was the most tragic in history, sending shockwaves throughout Canada. This essay will provide a deeper understanding of the details of the crime and how it impacted Canadians.
Description of the 2018 Toronto Van Attack
The Toronto van attack happened in Toronto on 23 April 2018. The incident involved a man, Alek Minassian, driving a rented van onto a busy sidewalk. The deadly vehicle-ramming crime was one of its kind, resulting in the death of ten people and leaving 16 fatally wounded. The police arrested Minassian shortly after the incident and charged him with 16 accounts of attempted murder and ten accounts of murder. Before the incident, Minassian had posted a message on his Facebook page that praised an assailant who had perpetrated a mass shooting in California (Westoll, 2019). The criminal also referenced online cultures promoting violence against women and misogyny earlier.
The Toronto van attack had a ripple effect on Canadians, as it is shocking. The crime prompted the discussion of radicalization and extremism in violent crimes. As the trial for the perpetrator was ongoing, the incident remained a tragic reminder of the need to understand such crimes and prevent the occurrence of future atrocities. The incident also brought to the fore the incel movement, a now-banned group of young men who slammed women for advocating violence and misogyny (Carter, 2021). The killer’s sentencing was delayed to allow the Canadian Supreme Court to rule on a Quebec case and determine how long it would take someone convicted of multiple murders to apply for parole.
Discussion of the 2018 Toronto Van Attack
Minassian used a rented van to commit a crime in Toronto, killing ten people and injuring 16 others. The Ontario judge found the man guilty of murdering ten and also attempting to murder 16 others. During the hearing, the judge rejected the novel argument that the criminal was driven by his autism spectrum disorder. The court ruled that the defendant was conscious of what he was doing despite the argument that his neurodevelopment disorder made him incapable of feeling empathy for his victims (Westoll, 2019). The judge argued that the criminal’s act was due to free will and that he had a rational brain that decided to choose a morally wrong action.
The ruling found that Minassian had not previously been diagnosed with mental illness, nor have any criminal record. Additionally, the defendant told police that he identified as an involuntary celibate and incel, an online community of men frustrated with their inability to find romantic partners (Carter, 2021). Even though Minassian pleaded that he had autism spectrum disorder and was not criminally responsible for the violent act, he was still sentenced to 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 accounts of attempted murder. The judge ruled that the defendant rented the van for the particular crime since the vehicle was small, easily mobile, and large enough to cause maximum damage.
The attack caused widespread outrage and shock among Canadians and the entire globe. People sympathized with the victims and offered condolences to the affected families (Carter, 2021). This incident called for authorities to make more significant efforts to address violence against women and misogyny, which was becoming rampant among men. For instance, after Minassian had praised a man who had perpetrated a mass shooting in California, the authorities could have done more to monitor the killer’s actions online and gain insights that could help prevent the crimes he committed. The 2014 post praising the California killer had drawn society with the incel society and a desire to rebel against it. However, law enforcement officers did not do more to investigate the issue.
The attack also sparked renewed discussions about the issue of involuntary celibates, a subculture of men expressing frustration with women for their inability to find romantic partners. Most people reason that Minassian must have been influenced by this online group, even though it is not yet clear what his real intentions were (Westoll, 2019). The need for authorities to take action on the followers of incels was depicted when they used Minassian’s face as their profile picture. The incident laid the foundation for law enforcement to recognize misogynistic crimes as acts of terrorism because of their incel beliefs.
The attack shows the significant role played by social media in such crimes. The media depicted that Minassian was influenced by an incel subculture online group of men who were frustrated with women for failing to find romantic partners (Rozdilsky & Snowden, 2021). Social media promotes crime through radicalization, which spreads extremist propaganda and ideologies (Drury et al., 2022). For instance, Minassian was radicalized by the incel subculture group, which motivated him to perpetrate a crime that inflicted maximum damage on women (Westoll, 2019). Additionally, social media is used to disseminate violent content, which can desensitize individuals to glorify acts of violence. The same was exemplified when Minassian praised a man who committed a mass shooting in California, leading to the death of 6 people. The post also expressed frustration with society and the will to rebel against it.
The crime has also led to discussions about increasing mental health support services in Canada. The attack highlighted the increasing prevalence of misogynistic violence and how tragic it could become. The crime also allowed Canadians to explore mental health, especially autism. Autism individuals tend to be uncomfortable in social settings and can hold antisocial ideologies (Rozdilsky & Snowden, 2021). For instance, autistic individuals are more likely to commit violent acts against groups they are uncomfortable with and may follow social movements such as incel (Westoll, 2019). Minassian was awkward when interacting with people in social contexts, akin to individuals diagnosed with autism.
In conclusion, the 2018 Toronto van attack was a senseless and tragic act that led to the death of 10 people and the injury of 16 others. The crime provided a sobering reminder of the potential for extremism and violence in societies and the need for continued support to prevent and address such crimes. The attack led to a discussion about incel, the importance of improving mental health support programs to help prevent crime, and the role of social media in radicalization. Authorities and social media companies are responsible for ensuring respectful and positive behavior online and reporting instances concerning criminal behaviors over those channels.
Carter, A. (2021). Judge finds Toronto van attack killer guilty of murder. CBC. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/van-attack-trial-decision-1.5933687
Drury, B., Drury, S. M., Rahman, M. A., & Ullah, I. (2022). A social network of crime: A review of the use of social networks for crime and the detection of crime. Online Social Networks and Media, 30, 100211. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.osnem.2022.100211
Rozdilsky, J. L., & Snowden, E. (2021). The 2018 Toronto Van Attack: Understanding the Disaster by Looking at Vulnerability, Tactics, and Motives. Why CJEM? 10. https://cdnjem.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/CJEM-Vol1-No1.pdf#page=10
Westoll, N. (2019). Looking back at the Toronto van attack: How 7 minutes changed the city. Global News. https://globalnews.ca/news/5177737/toronto-van-attack-anniversary-timeline/