The 28-year-old man, accused of killing 10 and injuring 16 after driving a van down Toronto’s Yonge Street in 2018 over the course of several minutes, has pleaded not criminally responsible to the charges.
Through his lawyers, Alek Minassian has pleaded not criminally responsible for his actions that day claiming that because of his Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis, Mr. Minassian’s way of thinking is “severely distorted in a way similar to psychosis”, stated Dr. Rebecca Chauhan in a Toronto Star article.
At ISAND we believe this statement to be erroneous and damaging to the thousands of people living with ASD in the GTA. Minassian agrees that he intended to kill, that the murders were planned and deliberate, and that he in fact did cause the death of those people. To say that people with ASD lack the emotional awareness to understand that it is wrong to kill people is both wildly inaccurate and extremely dangerous.
ISAND embraces the uniqueness of everyone and believe that every person with ASD, given the right supports, can and should feel welcomed in their community.
This defence strategy perpetuates harmful stereotypes about people with ASD. In fact, research has shown that persons with who are very intelligent and have ASD tend to be law abiding, highly moral and are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators.
Mr. Minassian does in fact have Autism Spectrum Disorder, however we believe that diagnosis has nothing do with his pre-meditated actions on that April day in 2018. From the court reports, it appears that most of the experts called for both the defence and the crown agree. Dr. John Bradford, a Canadian Forensic Psychiatrist called by the defence stated under oath that that Mr. Minassian showed ritualistic behaviours, but not delusional behaviour or psychosis. In Dr. Bradford’s opinion, the ASD diagnosis does not allow Mr. Minassian to be found Not Criminally Responsible.
We hope that the judge rejects the defence arguments, and allows Mr. Minassian to be judged on his actions, not on a falsely misleading theory based on his diagnosis of ASD.