Witnesses and relatives in Toronto van murders describe devastation caused by the attack

A Toronto court has heard devastating accounts from witnesses, victims, and relatives of people who were killed in the 2018 van attack in which a self-described “incel” ploughed his vehicle on to a crowded sidewalk.

Alek Minassian – who was motivated by a hatred of women – was convicted in March of 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder, after a judge found that he drove a white rental van on to the sidewalk with the intent to kill.

At a sentencing hearing on Monday, a Toronto court heard testimony from those affected. Witnesses recounted the horror of the attack, and their struggles with PTSD in the aftermath.

“My world has changed forever,” said Janet Zhang, after describing the mental suffering she still experiences after her CPR efforts to save a victim were unsuccessful.

First responder Charlene Mackay told the court that she still has panic-inducing triggers and night terrors, which she manages by drinking and not eating well. “I don’t feel like he should have a normal life,” she said of Minassian.

Other victims detailed the extensive and life-altering injuries they incurred during the attack, with which they continue to grapple.

Minassian’s actions took the lives of Renuka Amarasingha, Betty Forsyth, Ji Hun Kim, Dorothy Sewell, Anne Marie D’Amico, So He Chung, Andrea Bradden, Chul Min “Eddie” Kang, Geraldine Brady and Munir Najjar.

An 11th person – Amaresh Tesfamariam – died of her injuries in October 2021. Minassian was not given an additional murder charge.

The Crown is asking that Minassian be given 10 life sentences – to be served concurrently – with parole eligibility after 25 years.

The sentencing recommendation comes after last month’s supreme court of Canada decision, which found that consecutive periods of parole ineligibility were unconstitutional and should be seen as cruel and unusual punishment.

That decision was rendered after a court challenge by Alexandre Bissonnette, the man convicted of six murders and six attempted murders in the 2017 Quebec City mosque shooting.

In his original sentencing, Bissonnette’s parole ineligibility terms were added up consecutively, totalling 150 years – meaning he would die in prison.

After the May 2022 supreme court decision, he now qualifies for parole after 25 years.

Based on that decision, so will Minassian.

Justice Anne Malloy – the judge who oversaw the Toronto van attack trial – delayed Minassian’s sentencing pending the supreme court decision.

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