On February 24, 2020, Toronto officers received reports of a stabbing at a spa near Dufferin Street and Wilson Avenue. Upon arriving at the scene, they found a teenage boy and a woman suffering from laceration-related injuries.
Inside the building was the body of 24-year-old Ashley Noelle Arzaga, a mother of one child and an employee at Crown Spa. The other woman claims to be the owner of the spa and lost a finger while struggling with the teenager for the machete he used as a weapon.
Paul Worden, detective of the Toronto Police Homicide Squad, found evidence at the scene that links the teenager to an online incel extremist movement. This is not the first incel-related attack Toronto has witnessed, in 2018 a man plowed through Yonge Street killing 11 pedestrians and injuring another 15, this attack was classified as misogynist terrorism.
Incels, short for involuntary celibates, are groups of males online who blame women for their failure to develop romantic relationships. Online forums and group discussions often promote violence against women as a form of “justice”.
Presently, the man behind the spa attack, now 20, has pleaded guilty and has been sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years. Additionally the man, who cannot be identified by public media as he was 17 at the time of the attack, will be serving three years in prison for attempted murder.
Prosecutors wanted to sentence him as an adult, as adults found guilty of first-degree murder face automatically get a life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years. However, his parole was lowered as he was a minor at the time of the attack.
Justice Sukhail Akhtar ruled that the attack was equivalent to an act of terrorism due to its relation to the “incel” ideology in June. CP24 reports that this is the first that a Canadian court has made a finding of incel-motivated terrorist activity.
During the victim impact statements, Arzaga’s siblings had asked Justice Akhtar to consider the safety of surviving family members and other women in his sentencing decision.
At a hearing last month, the man apologised to Arzaga’s family and friends, while delivering another apology to the surviving victim as well. He claims that he has changed and shows remorse for his past actions, according to CBC, he states “I've come to realize that life is so much more than just internet negativity ... I wish I could travel back in time and talk some sense into my former self,”.
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