Survivors and families of victims in Toronto’s deadly van attack are set to give statements in court today as a sentencing hearing in the case gets underway.
Eight women and two men died on April 23, 2018 when a 25-year-old man bent on infamy, angered by women who wouldn’t sleep with him and radicalized in the bowels of the internet deliberately drove a rented van down a busy sidewalk.
Another woman died more than three years later from injuries suffered that day.
The sentencing hearing for Alek Minassian could last multiple days as it will hear from several dozen people affected by the attack.
He was found guilty last year of 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder.
First-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence without the ability to apply for parole for 25 years.
Several victims and families say they are preparing for an emotional few days in court but are going in feeling strong.
It will be their first opportunity to face the killer in person after the judge-alone trial and verdict occurred over videoconference during the pandemic.
Betty Forsyth, Ji Hun Kim, So He Chung, Geraldine Brady, Chul Min Kang, Anne Marie D’Amico, Munir Najjar, Dorothy Sewell, Andrea Bradden, Beutis Renuka Amarasingha and Amaresh Tesfamariam died as a result of attack.
‘We will fight just like she did,’ victim’s family says
Tesfamariam’s family said they will draw on her fighting spirit this week as they summon the strength to speak about her life in front of the man who caused her death.
“We will fight just like she did,” Tesfamariam’s niece, Luwam Ogbaselassie, told The Canadian Press.
Tesfamariam, 65, suffered catastrophic injuries after being run down in the attack. She was paralyzed from the neck down, needed a ventilator to breathe and her heart stopped several times.
But she fought to live for three more years, although she never left hospital after the rampage. She died last October.
Writing her victim impact statement forced Ogbaselassie to think once again about her aunt’s horrific pain and suffering.
But in that reflection, she also found strength.
“The fact that she fought for as long as she did, she inspired so many of us that I think the memory of her will live on in all of us forever,” Ogbaselassie said.
The sentencing hearing will allow the family to share the story of Tesfamariam’s life, rather than just her death, she said.
But the story was still difficult to write.
“It’s easier to shut off and not dwell and think about everything,” Ogbaselassie said. “She lived in such pain and misery, but kept strong throughout — that’s what we’ll hold on to.”