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Toronto massage parlour murder was act of terrorism, court finds in 'historical decision'

The actions of the teen who repeatedly slashed a North York massage parlour receptionist 42 times with a sword, killing her and injuring her manager, were an act of terrorism, an Ontario Superior Court Justice found Monday in a "historical" decision in Canada.

On Tuesday, Ontario Superior Court Justice Suhail Akhtar found the attack to constitute terrorism for sentencing purposes, the Crown confirmed to CTV News Toronto.

This is the first time that an incel-related incident has been found to constitute an act of terrorism in Canada, Crown prosecutor Lisa Mathews said.

The term 'incel,' a shortened form of the phrase 'involuntary celibate,' has been defined as an ideologically-motivated form of violent extremism, often present in online subcultures or communities that hold gender-driven, misogynist worldviews.

Mathews has also applied for the accused, now 20-years-old, to be tried as an adult.

The accused, whose identity has been protected under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, pled guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder in September 2022.

In 2020, a teenage boy walked into a North York massage parlour and repeatedly stabbed receptionist Ashley Arzaga before he was disarmed by another woman, according to agreed facts read in court in September. Arzaga was pronounced dead by police at the scene.

The agreed facts state he was carrying a 17-inch sword etched with the phrase, “Thot Slayer,” and a note that said “Long Live the Incel Rebellion.”

Toronto police have confirmed that 24-year-old Ashley Noell Arzaga was killed in a vicious machete attack at a Downsview massage parlour. (GoFundMe)

The accused is scheduled to appear in court July 18 with the intention to set a sentencing date.

The Canadian Criminal Code defines terrorism as an act committed "in whole or in part for a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause with the intention of intimidating the public."

While the decision marks the first time an incel-inspired act has been deemed an act of terrorism in Canadian history, it is the second time an offender has been convicted under Section 231 of the Criminal Code, which deems murder to be first-degree if it is committed in the course of a terrorist activity. In 2021, Saad Akhtar pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment. He confessed that he fatally beat Annie Hang-Kam Chiu with a hammer on a Scarborough sidewalk after being inspired by listed terrorist entity ISIS.

It is also not the first time incel ideology has inspired a violent crime, according to the Canadian goverment — in 2018, Toronto van attacker Alek Minassian, motivated by "gender-driven views, specifically a violent incel worldview" killed 10 and injured 16 individuals on Yonge Street.


In 2020, the owner of the Downsview massage parlour told CTV News Toronto she had to “fight for her life” after the attacker entered her business with a large machete, fatally stabbed Arzaga, and severely injured her in the aftermath.

The woman, 30 at the time, said she was in the foyer of the Crown Spa, located near Dufferin Street and Wilson Avenue, around 12:30 p.m. when she heard screams coming from a back room.

“I don’t even know if she had the ability to fight back,” she said. “She was a very, very beautiful girl. She was a super nice girl and she was very, very family oriented and she was a good friend.

The massage parlour owner said that when she went to investigate after she heard screams in the back room, the suspect allegedly lunged at her and stabbed her upper arm.

“He didn’t say anything. He brought a machete to my … arm,” she said, while standing outside the massage parlour beside a pool of her own blood. “He took my finger off while I was trying to grab [the weapon].”

The woman said she struggled with the suspect and their altercation took them outside the spa and into the parking lot.

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

Police said callers notified 911 dispatchers that a 17-year-old boy and a woman were lying outside the spa, covered in blood.

Both people were suffering from “laceration-type” wounds and were transported to the hospital for treatment, police said.

Blood splatter could still be seen coating the spa’s doorway and the asphalt of the building’s front parking lot the day after the attack.

“That’s my blood,” the woman told CTV News Toronto as she trembled beside her mother, who held her around the shoulders.

Police are seen on scene at Crown Spa in Downsview on Feb. 24, 2020.(CTV News Toronto)

With files from CTV News Toronto's Janice Golding. Top Stories

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