A Canadian teenager is facing the country’s first “incel”-related terrorism charges in connection with a machete attack at a Toronto massage parlour that left a young mother dead.
It is believed to be the first Canadian terror case not tied to Islamic extremism and could mark a turning point, experts say, as the authorities crack down on the misogynistic incel or “involuntary celibate” movement, which has its roots in online chatrooms.
The 17-year-old suspect, who as a minor cannot be named, is accused of entering an erotic massage parlour in Toronto in late February and killing Ashley Noell Arzaga, 24.
He also allegedly stabbed the shop’s owner as she wrestled the machete from him. Reports of the incident suggest another man was injured before an arrest was made.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) initially charged him with first-degree murder and attempted murder but upgraded both charges to include “terrorist activity” on Tuesday in light of new evidence discovered by Toronto police. The suspect was in attendance at court via video link.
“Terrorism comes in many forms and it’s important to note that it is not restricted to any particular group, religion or ideology,” the RCMP said in a statement.
Incels — usually indignant, sexually frustrated men — blame women for their inability to form romantic relationships. Some openly call for violence against women, or “Stacys”, and “Chads”, the men they date. The RCMP now class it as an “ideologically motivated violent extremist movement”.
Almost 50 deaths have been linked to incels across North America in recent years, prompting calls for such attacks to be classified as domestic terrorism. Suspects tend to be lone wolves using easily accessible weapons, such as knives and vehicles, and lack ties to specific organisations, all of which hinder police efforts to stop them.
The authorities have declined to level terrorism charges in similar cases, including a 2018 attack in Toronto where ten people were killed and 16 injured when a van drove into pedestrians on a busy road.
Even though the suspect, Alek Minassian, allegedly told police that he identified as an incel and hoped to “inspire future masses” to join his “uprising”, he was not charged with terrorism.
Minassian was allegedly inspired by Elliot Rodger, who is believed to have perpetrated the first incel-related attack in 2014 when he killed six and injured 14 with a knife, gun and car in Isla Vista, California.