As It Happens

Deadly van attack will 'profoundly change the city,' says Toronto councillor

A Toronto city councillor says his community is in shock after a van mounted a sidewalk struck a crowd of pedestrians, killing 10 people and injuring 15 others.

'Everyone's just kind of in a state of shock about it,' Coun. John Filion says after 10 killed on Yonge St.

Police secure an area around a covered body in Toronto, after a van mounted a sidewalk and crashed into a number of pedestrians on Monday. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Read Story Transcript

Toronto Coun. John Filion says his community is in shock after a van mounted a sidewalk in north Toronto and struck a crowd of pedestrians.

The white van struck people on Yonge Street near Finch Avenue, killing 10 people and injuring 14 before the driver fled and was quickly arrested in a confrontation with police, authorities said.

CBC News has confirmed that 25-year-old Alek Minassian is the alleged driver in the attack.

Filion represents the Willowdale neighbourhood where it all happened. He spoke to As It Happens host Carol Off. 

Here is part of that conversation. 

Councillor Filion, first of all I'm sorry for what has happened in your ward. How did you hear the news?

I got a call from my staff. I just left North York Civic Centre, which looks down to the scene where this all happened. And I got a call saying to head back.

What was going through your mind at that time?

Just kind of complete shock that something like this could happen in Canada, Toronto, Willowdale.

It's Yonge Street. You know, everybody's out on sort of the first really nice kind of day of spring. Everybody was out walking along the street.

It's just kind of unbelievable that something like that could could happen here. Everyone's just kind of in a state of shock about it.

Coun. John Filion, pictured here in 2016, says his ward is in shock after Monday's attack. (CBC)

What's required at this point? What do people need to know? What are you telling people to do?

It's literally a crime scene and it's all cordoned off and you can't use Yonge Street and it's difficult to even cross.

So how will people get around it? Can people be there? What if you live or work there?

Well, you'll find your way. Of all days, people can put up with a little inconvenience, and that may go on for several days while the police are investigating.

All of us need to just keep out of the way and let them do their job.

A pedestrian reacts after a van ran down pedestrians in north Toronto. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

Can you describe for those who haven't been there what this area looks like?

It's kind of a sea of highrise condos mostly and some office buildings and a lot of little restaurants and, you know, a lot of people out at lunch hour walking along on a nice sunny day.

We don't know the motive yet ... but we do know it is similar to what we've seen in other places where where vehicles were used deliberately to hurt people to kill them. We saw it in Nice. We saw in London. We saw it in Berlin. But what what are your thoughts ... as you realize that something similar has happened in your ward?

It's just a shock that it could happen in our city, that it could happen anywhere in our city.

The area I represent is, you know, very harmonious. We have people from all over the world and everybody gets along very well. You know, you rarely even encounter an angry person in the area.

It's just, you know, incomprehensible.

Joanna Russo and Ion Saroiu work near Yonge Street and Finch Avenue, where the attack happened. They were at the scene minutes after the attack. We reached them earlier today. 5:50

What will you do now? What do you feel are your responsibilities to people in your ward?

I guess just to reassure everybody that we do have a great city and a great community, and whatever caused this to happen is a complete aberration.

But mainly, you just have to think about all the victims — and there are so many — and their families. We don't even know their names yet.

There'll be so much public sadness when that comes out.

Onlookers gather at Yonge Street and Finch Avenue in Toronto in the aftermath. (Jon Tam)

Do you think there will be a place, as there have been in the other cities where that have had these incidents, where they've put in bollards, ways to protect the sidewalk, just concrete embankments that prevent vehicles from coming up on streets in public places like this?

There will certainly be a more concerted conversation about it. Sadly, I guess that's what we've come to.

I think probably what happened today will profoundly change the city from here on in.

Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from Reuters. Interview produced by Mary Newman.