Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Killing of Muslim family may be a hate crime, but almost certainly not a terrorist attack

Canadian Prime Minister Justin, along with many others, are calling the horrendous multiple murder of a family in London, Ontario, over the weekend a terrorist attack. "This killing was no acident. This was a terrorist attack", he said today, in no uncertain terms.

Nathaniel Veltman, 20-year old resident of London, Ontario, ploughed down a family on a sidewalk in his pickup truck, killing four and severely injuring one other member of the same family.  The troubled young man is apparently a pretty nice guy, not a member of any racist group, and seems to have acted alone. It was not an action by one group against another. This was, then, NOT a terrorist action. However shocking it was, and however upset about it people may be, let us be careful: words matter.  (Per the US legal code, terrorism is "premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents".)

It MAY have been a hate crime - the family were all practising Muslims - but, at this point, even that is not yet clear. We do not know definitively that he deliberately targeted the family because they were Muslim. A police spokesman has said that, "There is evidence that this was a planned, premeditated act, motivated by hate. We believe the victims were targeted because of their Islamic faith", although to the best of my knowledge this has not been proved yet in a court of law. It seems likely, but not proven. 

Hell, it has not yet even been proven that this was a murder, and not just an accident. Again it seems likely, but not proven. True, Veltman has been charged with four counts of first degree murder and one of attempted murder, but he has not yet been convicted.

I don't mean to belittle the events of Sunday; the outrage rippling through Canada is entirely justified. But can we please stick to the facts, insofar as they are known?

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