OTTAWA, Canada - On Thursday, Nathaniel Veltman, a 22-year-old confessed Canadian white nationalist who deliberately ran over and killed four members of a Pakistani family in his truck in 2021, was found guilty of first-degree murder.
According to the BBC, the jury of twelve members deliberated for more than five hours before issuing a secret decision under Canadian law. It was the first time that Canada's anti-terrorism laws were put to the test in a first-degree murder case.
Salman Afzaal, 46, his 44-year-old wife Madiha Salman, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna, and his mother, 74-year-old Talat Afzaal, were the Pakistani-Canadian Muslim family killed by Veltman on June 6, 2021.
Despite suffering severe injuries, the couple's nine-year-old child survived.
A guilty verdict was delivered in Windsor's Superior Courthouse, eliciting emotional reactions from onlookers, including members of London's Muslim community and friends of the affected family.
The relatives expressed comfort and emphasized the importance of taking additional action to combat all forms of hatred in Canada.
"This was not just a crime against the Muslim community, but an attack on the safety and security of all Canadians," Tabinda Bukhari, the family's representative, said.
The National Council of Muslims (NCCM) expressed relief that "justice has been served."
"The attack that happened over two years ago changed Canadian Muslims' relationship with their country," NCCM head Omar Khamissa said.
"For the first time for many of us, we felt unsafe and targeted just for walking down the street."
The prosecution and defense both agreed that he was driving that day, but Veltman had pleaded not guilty, claiming mental illness.
The jury heard evidence of Veltman's hatred for Muslims and his serious consumption of far-right and anti-Muslim content online during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a document discovered by police after his arrest.
During his trial, he claimed he had an obsessive-compulsive disorder and was influenced by a strict Christian upbringing. Before running over the family, he admitted to feeling detached from reality after taking magic mushrooms.
He said he had previously resisted the idea of running over Muslims, but later, while out for food, he couldn't stop the "urge" when he saw the family out for a stroll.
Veltman's sentence will be handed down at a later date. However, under Canadian law, the punishment for first-degree murder is life in prison without the possibility of parole for 25 years.