TORONTO -- Police in Toronto have taken the rare step in updating a teenager’s first-degree murder and attempted murder charges to those of terrorism due his alleged connection to the “incel” movement.

On Tuesday, RCMP said the charges against the 17-year-old boy now include terrorism offences as officers found evidence that the accused was “inspired by the Ideologically Motivated Violent Extremist (IMVE) movement commonly known as incel.”

The 17-year-old boy, who cannot be named, was originally charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder on Feb. 24 following multiple stabbings at a massage parlour in north-end Toronto.

Ashley Noelle Arzaga, a 24-year-old employee of the massage parlour, was found dead at the scene, while another woman, who was later identified as the parlour’s owner, was also badly injured in the incident.

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

"They're motivated to harm females and kill females, based on the beliefs of the group,” Det. Paul Worden of the Toronto Police Service’s homicide unit told CTV News.

While terrorism charges are typically reserved for religious extremists, the RCMP wrote in a statement that terrorism is “not restricted to any particular group, religion or ideology.”

In an interview with CTV’s Power Play on Tuesday, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair would not comment on whether this was the first time a terrorism charge has been laid against someone with ties to the incel community, but said the officers made the right call in updating the charges.

“I believe that's an appropriate use of that legislation,” he said. “Those types of motivations can't be tolerated in our society and they do seriously aggravate the nature of those crimes.”

"We monitor the various motivations for those types of crimes and where it is ideologically motivated as this case was, we look at that very seriously as a terrorist offense.”

Michael Arntfield, a criminologist at Western University, believes these charges could change how we view crimes allegedly committed by someone in the incel community.

“I think this marks a turning point in the understanding of the incel movement as more than just a disorganized cabal of all of disenfranchised people who gather on the internet,” he said.


The accused appeared in court via video on Tuesday to address the updated charges. Police said Tuesday that the attack does appear to be an isolated incident and there is no additional threat to the public.

The massage parlour’s owner previously told CTV News Toronto that she went to investigate screams from another room and the suspect lunged at her with a machete. While defending herself, the owner said the altercation brought the two of them outside and into the parking lot.

“I fought. I fought hard,” she said at the time. “I took the machete from him.”

Soon after, police received 911 calls that a woman and a 17-year-old boy were lying in the parking lot, covered in blood.

During the investigation, members of the Toronto Police Service contacted the RCMP after they say they found evidence that the crime was potentially a “terrorist activity”. It was later determined by various authorities that the accused was inspired by the incel movement.

“Accordingly, a new Information was laid today alleging that these attacks were terrorist activity as it is defined in Canadian law,” the RCMP wrote in a news release.

This is not the first deadly crime allegedly committed by someone claiming to be an incel.

In 2018, Alek Minassian, who described himself as an incel to police, allegedly drove a rented van on the sidewalk of a busy north-end Toronto street in 2018, killing 10 people and injuring another 16.

Minassian faces 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 of attempted murder, but has not been charged with terrorism-related offenses.

He was scheduled to appear in court on April 6, but his trial has been delayed due to COVID-19.

With files from CTV News Toronto correspondent John Vennavally-Rao, CTV News Toronto and The Canadian Press