TORONTO -- A university law professor believes the case of a teenager charged with terrorism offences for allegedly stabbing a woman to death with a machete could change the way Canadians think about similar cases.

On Tuesday, police in Toronto added terrorism charges to a 17-year-old boy who had been previously charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder following a machete attack at a north-end Toronto massage parlour. During the investigation, police say they found evidence the teen was inspired by the “incel” movement, which became the crux of the terrorism charges.

Incel, or involuntary celibate, is an internet subculture of primarily straight men who claim they cannot find a romantic relationship, and resort to hating women because of it, sometimes to violent levels.

Kent Roach, a law professor at the University of Toronto, believes police made the right decision in this particular case and said, to his knowledge, this marks the first case in Canada concerning terrorism charges being laid against someone who is not an Islamic extremist.

“I think the fact that this is getting a lot of media attention may start changing the way we think about terrorism as a society,” he told in a phone interview.

“Even the fact that the charge was laid … is significant, because one of my concerns is -- coming out of 9/11 -- there has been this sense that it's only terrorism if it looks like 9/11 and there's been a number of cases where I think it's important symbolically for the state to indicate that they will apply terrorism laws wherever they feel that they can be proven beyond reasonable doubt.”

Roach said in order for police to lay a terrorism charge, the accused must be “acting for a political, religious or ideological objective.”

It's for this reason that Roach argues that a case could be made that Alexandre Bissonnette, who killed six worshippers at a Quebec City mosque in 2017, could’ve been considered terrorism, but, given the nature of his crimes, he said additional charges could’ve complicated the prosecution.

“I think that, for police and prosecutors, in some ways laying a terrorism charge makes their job harder,” he said. “I think there's a tendency to say: ‘Well, we already got him on murder. Why do we want to make the charges more complicated and our lives harder by introducing terrorism into the equation?’”

Roach also notes that, in both the cases of Bissonnette and the teenager, terrorism offences wouldn’t make a difference when it comes to the sentence.

“This is more a debate about the symbolic meaning of terrorism offenses than one that is actually going to necessarily influence the ultimate sentence,” he said.


A report released Wednesday from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service specifically names two alleged incidents involving incels as examples of “gender-driven violence” under the category of “ideologically motivated violent extremism (IMVE),” alongside xenophobic violence, anti-authority violence and “other grievance-driven and ideologically motivated violence.”

The report specifically names Alek Minassian, who allegedly killed 10 people and injured another 16 people using a rented van in Toronto in 2018, and Alexander Stavropoulos, a Sudbury, Ont. man who pleaded guilty in January to stabbing a woman and injuring her babyin 2019, as examples of incels and this form of extremism. 

The report indicates these IMVE groups are “driven by a range of grievances and ideas from across the traditional ideological spectrum.” 

“The resulting worldview consists of a personalized narrative which centres on an extremist’s willingness to incite, enable and or mobilize to violence,” the report states.