Toronto van attacker sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years

WATCH ABOVE: The man responsible for Toronto’s deadly van attack in 2018 has been sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. As crime specialist Catherine McDonald reports, Justice Anne Molloy handed down the sentence for Alek Minassian on Monday.

The man responsible for Toronto’s deadly van attack has been sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.

Justice Anne Molloy handed down the sentence for Alek Minassian Monday, noting that the Supreme Court of Canada recently declared unconstitutional a 2011 provision that allowed a judge, in the event of multiple murders, to impose a life sentence and parole ineligibility periods of 25 years to be served consecutively for each murder.

Minassian has also been sentenced to 20 years for 15 counts of attempted murder, which are to be served concurrently.

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He was found guilty last year of 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder.

Molloy said that the victim impact statements heard by the court earlier Monday are important, as they mattered to her and will matter to those who make future decisions at the parole board.

Court heard several statements, including a community impact statement, as well as accounts from several civilian first responders, family members of victims who died and surviving victims.

Eight women and two men died on April 23, 2018 when a 25-year-old man bent on infamy, angered by women who wouldn’t sleep with him and radicalized in the bowels of the internet deliberately drove a rented van down a busy sidewalk.

Another woman died more than three years later from injuries suffered that day, after Alek Minassian was found guilty.

“In reality, this is a murder,” Molloy said Monday. “You killed this woman the same way you killed the other 10 people and I am imposing a life sentence.”

Three civilian first responders discussed the horrors they experienced the day of the attack and the emotional impact it has had on them ever since.

“I am troubled by how much suffering this man has caused and that he appears to show a lack of remorse for what he has done. My greatest fear is that this man would ever be able to carry out such an act again,” said Janet Jiang, one of the civilian responders.

“As someone who witnessed this event, my world is changed forever. However, it is nothing compared to the suffering and grief caused to the victims and their families.”

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She said she performed CPR on one of the victims who died and has become a less happy and more anxious person ever since that day.

“I replay that day thousands of times, questioning if I could have done things differently and if she would still be here today,” Jiang said.

“I experienced nightmares and flashbacks and I continue therapy for my depression and PTSD symptoms.”

Family members of some of the victims who died also provided impact statements.

Haneen Najjar, the daughter of 85-year-old Munir Najjar, said her father saw the beauty in everything around him, was curious to learn new things, and appreciated the little things most people take for granted.

She said he was in town visiting from Jordan when he was struck.

“I miss my father so much,” she told the court.

She said her children were “extremely traumatized” by the loss of their grandfather and her mother, a woman in her 80s, had to learn how to live without her partner of more than 50 years.

Robert Forsyth told the court about his aunt, Betty Forsyth, who he called a “walking library” of family information.

“Her presence and many untold stories are lost forever,” he said, his voice catching, as he stared at Minassian in the prisoner box.

Family members of Anne Marie D’Amico discussed how the attack changed their lives.

“The destruction and pain inflicted on my family and others is unspeakable,” Anne Marie’s father, Rocco D’Amico, said.

“I cannot find words to give voice to the emptiness that lives within. The daily tears my family continues to shed would overflow a courtroom. I long for the day this pain might diminish.

“I am among 26 families who are living in a constant hell all because women would not respond to the advances of this killer.”

Anne Marie’s mother Carmela D’Amico, in tears as she read her statement, said her daughter was in the “prime of her life” when she was killed.

“You took my beautiful baby girl away from me,” Carmela said.

Court was also shown a photo drawn by Beutis Renuka Amarasingha’s nine-year-old child, who was around five years old when Amarasingha was killed in the attack.

The drawing shows two people standing next to each other, with a sun at the top of the page.

A hand-drawn photo from Beutis Renuka Amarasingha's son was shown in court.

A hand-drawn photo from Beutis Renuka Amarasingha's son was shown in court.

“It’s lovely,” said Molloy, who wiped away a few tears in the busy courtroom filled with dozens of victims and their families.

Victims who were injured and survived the attack also described the emotional and physical challenges they have had to endure since the attack.

“Alek Minassian has ruined my past, present, and future,” Jun Seok Park’s statement said.

An impact statement from Willowdale community members detailed the suffering experienced by students and employees at businesses in the area after the attack, with some having post-traumatic stress.

Students had to seek counselling after what they witnessed, were unable to complete assignments, and were traumatized by what they saw.

Women reported that their view of the world was darkened, and some neighbours have stated that they try to avoid Yonge Street.

Betty Forsyth, Ji Hun Kim, So He Chung, Geraldine Brady, Chul Min Kang, Anne Marie D’Amico, Munir Najjar, Dorothy Sewell, Andrea Bradden and Beutis Renuka Amarasingha and Amaresh Tesfamariam died as a result of attack.

Elwood Delaney, whose grandmother was killed in the attack, said he is “definitely not satisfied” after Monday’s sentencing.

Speaking outside the courtroom after the sentence was delivered, Delaney said Minassian showed “zero emotion” while victim impact statements were read in court.

“It was very cowardly for him to sit there how he did,” Delaney said.

Delaney said he holds “a lot of anger” towards Minassian, “not just for what he did to me and my family, but for what he did to everyone else, the city of Toronto and our nation.”

Delaney said the last four years have been “horrible.”

“We never really got a reason why,” he said, adding that there are “no words for what he did.”

“I’m angry at that man,” he said.

Luwam Ogbaselassie’s aunt was also a victim of the attack.

She told reporters outside the court room that the sentence was what they were “expecting.”

“But I think what (Molloy) said in her sentencing was what we needed to hear to be able to start to heal and find a way to move forward,” she said.

Ogbaselassie said Monday was an “incredibly difficult” and an “incredibly emotional day.”

“Hearing all the victim impact statements, I don’t think anything can prepare any one of us to be in the room for that,” she said. “I think the level of care and compassion that everyone showed towards one another is remarkable.”

She said it has been a “long four years,” adding that she is “looking forward to having this behind us.”

— With files from Catherine McDonald and The Canadian Press

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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