Van attack prompting 'talk about misogyny' as motive

Theories are emerging about whether a hatred of women could have played a role in Monday's attack in Toronto, in which the driver of a van plowed into pedestrians down a busy street.

Federal ministers call on web giants to rein in online hatred

Police gather after a van driver rammed pedestrians on Monday in north Toronto. (Aaron Vincent Elkaim/Canadian Press)

Theories are emerging about whether a hatred of women could have played a role in Monday's attack in Toronto, in which the driver of a van plowed into pedestrians down a busy street.

One day after 25-year-old Alek Minassian allegedly tore down Yonge Street with a rental van, killing 10 and injuring 14, police revealed that the majority of the victims were women, ranging in age from their 20s to 80s.

Police have so far offered no details on a possible motive, but at a news conference Tuesday referred to a "cryptic" message posted on the Richmond Hill, Ont., man's Facebook account, moments before the deadly attack.

"Private (Recruit) Minassian Infantry 00010, wishing to speak to Sgt 4chan please. C23249161. The Incel Rebellion has already begun! We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys. All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!" reads the post.

Police haven't quoted the post specifically, but did say one was written before the accused began driving the rental van.
Suspect Alek Minassian allegedly made a reference in a Facebook post to Elliot Rodger, above, who died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot, had left a trail of YouTube videos and a 140-page manifesto ranting against women and couples and lamenting his lack of a sex life. (YouTube/Associated Press)

Minassian has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder. A 14th charge of attempted murder is expected, police said Tuesday.

Time to speak up about hate, MP says

Asked about the theory that misogyny may have been behind the attack, federal Labour Minister Patty Hajdu responded by saying it's time Canadians speak up about what she called a troubling trend of hate directed at women. 

Hajdu, who was at a weekly caucus meeting along with Prime Minister Trudeau, said people are too silent about misogyny and it's time to speak up.

"From my perspective, we have to have a conversation about misogyny, about the rise in hate and the connection to what some call the alt-right," said Hajdu. "I think it's a conversation that's just not being had loudly enough in our society."

A statement from Hajdu's office later sought to distance her remarks from the investigation.

"The minister respects the ongoing investigation the police are doing and agrees it is inappropriate to comment on it," Carlene Variyan said in an email. "She was simply speaking in broad terms, from her experience as status of women minister, about the impacts of misogyny on society writ large. She was not commenting on the ongoing investigation."

'May not be actual answers,' says Trudeau

Asked for his thoughts on the reasons for the attack, Trudeau withheld comment, saying the investigation was ongoing. "A lot of people have questions as to why, and there may or may not be actual answers," he said. 

Speaking to reporters at Queen's Park earlier in the day, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne also steered clear of speculation about motive for the attack.
Premier Kathleen Wynne said Wednesday there continues to be no threat of any national security issue in Toronto following Monday's van attack. (CBC)

"I think it's early days for us to jump to any conclusions about that," she said.

Pressed further, Wynne said it was "very disturbing that we have venues where this kind of hateful, misogynist language is used, where those attitudes are given permission in some way."

"But I don't think that we can pre-empt or speculate on what the motivation is," she said.

Calls for web giants to act

Asked about online sites where hateful views against women are espoused, federal Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly said criminal behaviour cannot be tolerated online.

"People's behaviour must be the same online and offline. And therefore, we call upon the web giants to make sure that they counter any form of hate speech and any form of discrimination," Joly said. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale had called upon web giants to act during the G7 Ministers of National Security Summit in Toronto, said Joly. 
A woman writes a note at a memorial on Yonge Street Tuesday the day after a driver in Toronto drove a rented van down sidewalks, Tuesday, April 24, 2018, striking pedestrians in his path. (Galit Rodan/Canadian Press)

Street reopens

Meanwhile, as the investigation continues, the stretch of Yonge Street that became the site of tragedy just two days ago has fully reopened, the remaining yellow tape and display of signs and flowers a reminder of both the carnage seen by the city and its resilience.

Toronto police say they continue to have an "investigative presence" in the area and cannot speak to when the identities of those killed might be released. 

It could be days yet before the names of the deceased are made public, Ontario's chief coroner said Tuesday.

"Many families have asked for privacy and the official list of names will not be released until they have all been confirmed," the premier said.

CBC News has confirmed the identities of some of the deceased victims, while court records identified those who were injured.

Mayor John Tory's office announced Wednesday that the city will host a #TorontoStrong vigil Sunday evening at Mel Lastman Square.

This city-hosted vigil, organized in collaboration with community groups Faith in the City and the Toronto Area Interfaith Council, will be a demonstration of Toronto's diverse communities and a display of the city's resiliency. 

With files from The Canadian Press