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A Summary of the Alek Minassian Trial

A crowd gathers at a memorial site, mourning for the victims of the 2018 van attack in Toronto
(Image courtesy of Flickr)

November 27, 2020

By Talha Hashmani

From an orange jumpsuit to a black blazer, Alek Minassian attended day 10 of his trial today.

Minassian is accused of carrying out the 2018 van attack in Toronto that killed 10 and injuring 16. The trial began on Nov. 10, 2020, after months of delays. With COVID-19 enduring public health concern, the proceedings were shifted online over Zoom.

At the start of the trial, Minnassian’s defence attorney, Boris Bytensky, acknowledged that Minassian’s involvement in the 2018 attack is not under question. Instead, Minassian’s state of mind is at the centre of the trial, establishing whether or not he should be held criminally responsible for his actions during the attack.

A bystander video shows Minassian holding up a phone, telling the officer that he has a gun in his pocket. Const. Ken Lam yells at Minassian to “get down”. (CBC news, 2018).

The defence argues that Minassian’s disorder prevented him from comprehending the gravity of his actions. Several witnesses have been called to testify to further provide an outside perspective on Minassian’s characteristics. His father, Vahe Minassian, was the first to testify and ascertained that his son suffered from an autism spectrum disorder. He also testified that he couldn’t understand how and why his son would engage in such an attack.

The Crown counsel questioned Vahe Minnassian’s testimony, suggesting that he had tailored his statements to provide the best possible defence for his son. During the cross-examination of the father, the crown suggested that although Minassian suffered from a disorder, he was still capable of understanding the consequences of his actions.

Child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr. Rebecca Chauhan and forensic psychiatrist Dr. John Bradford also took the stand to provide an explanation for the assessments they conducted on Minassian.

Dr. Chauhan was brought on the assessment team due to her experience working with individuals diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. She has stated that although she has experience, she is not an expert on diagnosing individuals with the disorder. She has, however, used various tools including the ADI (Autism Diagnostic Interview, and ADOS 2 (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule) to help in making an assessment of the diagnosis for Minassian

Dr. Bradford stated that he did not observe any signs of psychosis in Minassian but did agree that Minassian suffered from autism. He also stated that his autism diagnosis did not meet the criteria of the not criminally responsible defence, as outlined in section 16 of the Criminal Code of Canada.

Section 16, better known as the defence of mental disorder is defined as follows:

  • An individual is not held criminally responsible for an action or an omission of such while suffering from a mental disorder that would make it impossible for them to know the consequences of doing so.
  • Every person is presumed not to suffer from a mental disorder until proven otherwise.
  • The burden of proof that an accused was suffering from a mental disorder and that they should be exempt from criminal responsibility is on the party that raises the issue.

During the trial, a video was shown of the interview between Minassian and Detective Robert Thomas. In the video, Minassian said he wanted to partake in an incel uprising to ensure that incels would no longer be oppressed.

Minassian has also stated that he was influenced by the actions of Elliot Rodger and Chris Harper-Mercer, self-identified incels who have perpetrated mass murders in the States. These statements, however, have come under scrutiny based on their authenticity and Minassian’s state of mind when he spoke them.

According to, incel is short for involuntary celibate. It is a term used to define men who are sexually isolated. The term has garnered an online community, with forums available on various platforms such as Reddit, 4Chan, and

Minassian’s trial resumes next week.

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