As Patrick Keeney explains, two developments have prompted calls to cancel the national holiday of Canada Day: the discovery of more than 215 remains of children at a former residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia, and the killing of a Muslim family in London, Ontario, by a deranged young man. Consider some of the headlines on that case.
Christian terrorist who mowed down Muslim family was laughing as he got out of blood covered truck, headlined the Yahoo News story and appeared in several others. As the Huffington Post had it, Driver In Canada Hits Muslim Family With Truck, Killing 4 In Suspected Hate Attack. Politicians were quick to respond.
Their lives were taken in a brutal, cowardly, and brazen act of violence, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters. This killing was no accident. This was a terrorist attack motivated by hatred in the heart of one of our communities.
Ontario premier Doug Ford proclaimed that justice must be served for the horrific act of hatred that took place. London, Ontario mayor Ed Holder told reporters, This was an act of mass murder, perpetrated against Muslims, against Londoners, and rooted in unspeakable hatred. London detective superintendent Paul Waight said, There is evidence that this was a planned, premeditated act, motivated by hate. We believe the victims were targeted because of their Islamic faith.
Mustafa Farooq of the National Council of Canadian Muslims said, This is a terrorist attack on Canadian soil, and should be treated as such. Canadians might wonder what, exactly, had happened in this hateful, planned terrorist attack.
On June 6, Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, their daughter Yumna Afzaal, 15, Fayez Afzaal, 9, and Salmans mother, Talat Afzaal, 74, were waiting at an intersection in London, Ontario. A truck driven by 20-year-old Nathaniel Veltman jumped the curb, smashed into the family, and killed all but Fayez, recovering in hospital. The family immigrated to Canada from Pakistan in 2007.
Police arrested Veltman, who was wearing body armor, a military-style helmet, and a Nazi T-shirt, according to news reports. The driver allegedly laughed about the crash, indulged in strange chanting, and requested that a movie be made of him. The source for these details was a veteran cabbie, now allegedly too traumatized to speak, so the spokesman was Iranian immigrant Hassan Savehilaghi, who operates the cab company.
Since Savehilaghi had not been a witness on the scene, the account was hearsay and would not be admissible in court. Readers might also wonder about the Christian terrorist with the Nazi regalia.
As it turns out, Nathaniel Veltman is one of six children, including a twin sister, and grew up in a Christian family in Strathroy, Ontario. Veltman attended Fanshawe College in London and worked at a local egg packing company.
An internet search revealed nothing about Veltman or any associations with online hate sites. Friends and co-workers told reporters they never heard him say a bad thing about the Middle East or Muslims. One friend described Veltman as a good Christian. A psychologist once flagged anger issues, and he was once described as socially awkward. Those conditions, hardly uncommon, caused no problems with the police, and Veltman had no criminal record.
Two neighbors told reporters Veltman lived alone, played video games and sometimes made too much noise late at night. Several reports carried photos of the bespectacled suspect, one from his high-school yearbook. According to a CBC News report, when arrested Veltman was wearing something similar to body armor, that could make him a pseudo-commando subtype, according to criminology professor Mike Arntfield. The former London police officer found nothing about Veltman on the internet.
None of the early reports speculated that Veltman may have been intoxicated, or his driving impaired by some medical condition. Reports ignored the possibility that his truck may have somehow malfunctioned, and that the deaths might have been in any way accidental.
The default account profiled Veltman as a mass murderer, a Nazi commando type who had targeted a family for death because of their Muslim faith. This was not an accident but a hate crime and terrorist act motivated by Islamophobia. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is not a lawyer, amplified these charges before any investigation, court proceedings, sworn testimony or careful examination of evidence.
The presumption of innocence has gone missing and the angry rush to judgement more characteristic of a lynch mob. That imperils the odds that Nathaniel Veltman will get a fair trial, the right of every Canadian. In similar style, before any forensic investigation of the bodies discovered at Kamloops, calls ring out for the cancellation of Canada Day.
That day celebrates a nation where rule of law prevails and the dispassionate investigation of evidence precedes judgement. If Canadians believed these conditions have been replaced by mass hysteria, then it would be hard to blame them.