Day 6

Terror charge in alleged 'incel' attack affirms 'repugnant' nature of violence against women: legal expert

Legal expert Leah West says the addition of terrorism charges to a deadly stabbing case is a big step for Canada's legal system.

17-year-old facing terrorism charges following deadly attack at Toronto massage parlour

One woman was killed and two other people were injured in an attack at a massage parlour in Toronto on Feb. 24. Police say they have evidence linking the attack to incel ideology. (Michael Cole/CBC)

Legal expert Leah West says the addition of terrorism charges to a deadly stabbing case is a big step for Canada's legal system.

"This is a really important move because it's not the first time we've had an act of terrorism that's been outside of the scope of Islamic jihadism," West told Day 6 host Brent Bambury. 

One woman died and two others were injured in a violent attack at a Toronto massage parlour in February. A 17-year-old male, who is too young to be identified under Canadian law, was charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder.

Police added the terrorism charge on Tuesday, three months after the attack, after finding what they say is evidence that he had ties to the incel or "involuntary celibate" movement, whose members believe women owe men sex and are to blame for male sexual frustration. 

It's the same ideology that prosecutors say inspired the man charged with murder, but not terrorism, in the deadly Toronto van attack in 2018.

West said the lack of a terrorism charge in that case could be due to the prosecutors being unsure if they could explain the ideology to a decision maker such as a judge or a jury.

Since Criminal Code offences for terrorism were first introduced in 2001, 56 out of the 57 terror charges laid in Canada have been in cases of Islamist-inspired extremism.

Until now, only one has been laid in connection with another ideology — in 2008, when a Toronto-area man was charged with raising funds for a Tamil militant group.

Leah West is a lecturer at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs in Ottawa. (CBC)

West noted that if this stabbing case reaches a conviction, others in the incel movement might be encouraged to commit similar attacks. 

"That is the risk, especially with the incel ideology, where those who have committed acts of violence against women kind of take on a hero status within this ideology," she said. 

But she added that the significance of the terrorism charge in this case can't be denied.

"We need to acknowledge and label terrorism that targets women, that targets ethnic and cultural minorities in this country, as just as repugnant as terrorism motivated by the ideology espoused by ISIS and al-Qaeda," she said.

"They are equally disgusting and equally destructive to our social fabric, and they should all be equally treated as such," she said. 

Written by Mouhamad Rachini with files from CBC News Toronto. Produced by Annie Bender.

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