The Price of Incel Violence - Toronto Van Attack
On April 23, 2018, 25-year old Alek Minassian rammed a rented van into individuals walking on the sidewalk along the North York City Centre business district in Toronto, Canada. The attack killed 11, 9 of whom were women, and injured 15. Minassian was taken into custody after attempting suicide by police and was later found guilty of 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder.
The incident is notably characterized as an act of misogynist terrorism due to its ties to the involuntary celibate, or ‘incel’, ideology. The following profile will describe the perpetrator, outline the attack, and assess the various costs associated with the incident while providing insights into how this event is financially distinct from other instances of terrorism.
Who is Alek Minassian?
Before committing the largest mass murder in Toronto’s history, Alek Minassian was a 25-year old college student living in Richmond Hill with his family. He had no prior criminal history and was an aspiring software developer. He grew up in an upper middle-class neighbourhood, with both parents in the IT industry.
After beginning his post-secondary education, Minassian worked for five months at Toogood Financial Systems in Thornhill, but was fired and soon after enrolled in the military. No red flags were raised during his recruitment, but he struggled during basic training and quit after 16 days. Minassian returned to school and in early 2018, was finishing up a semester at Seneca college in North York. He was waiting to start a new job when he committed the attack.
Minassian struggled socially, especially in his attempted relations with women. This perceived social and sexual rejection motivated Minassian to commit violence. Prior to the attack, Minassian described himself as an incel through his social media, as well as in person to police. He studied incel subgroups and women-hating manifestos for years, while posting on platforms like Facebook. Minassian praised mass killers associated with the incel ideology, including Chris Harper-Mercer and Elliot Rodger. Inspired by the violence committed by other members of the incel movement, Minassian decided to conduct his own attack on April 23, 2018. While that incident was a classic low-sophistication, lone-actor attack, there were still financial indicators and costs that can inform future counter-terrorism policy.