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A Mississauga man faces terrorism charges in relation to an attack this spring at a local mosque.

On March 19, a man armed with an axe and bear spray stormed Mississauga’s Dar Al-Tawheed Islamic Centre. Police arrested Mohammad Moiz Omar, 24, and immediately charged him with three weapons offences, two counts of assault, and single counts of uttering threats and mischief.

On Wednesday, prosecutors told a Brampton, Ont., court they will seek to prove the alleged actions also violated Canada’s Anti-Terrorism Act. Documents filed in court show that top federal and provincial prosecutors signed formal consents this month to pursue the crimes as terrorist acts.

The Crown has not disclosed details about potential motivation, but for terrorism charges to be laid, law-enforcement officials usually need proof that a suspect was planning to engage in religious or ideologically motivated violence. Such evidence is typically drawn from discovered documents and manifestos, or admissions by the suspect.

For the past five years, police and prosecutors in Canada have faced criticism for not doing enough to condemn an increasing number of violent attacks directed at Muslims, particularly in places of worship.

The worst such act occurred in 2017, when a gunman stormed a mosque in Quebec City and shot dead six men at prayer. Prosecutors laid first-degree murder charges in that case, and the killer was eventually sentenced to life in prison.

But evidence also pointed to an ideologically motivated Islamophobic attack. Muslim groups have always contended that the Crown should have invoked the Anti-Terrorism Act.

Prosecutors have since shown they will use the legislation to pursue such cases if they can.

One year ago in London, Ont., four members of a Muslim family who were out for a walk were killed when a pickup truck was driven into them. The police arrested a suspect on murder charges. But prosecutors added more charges days later, alleging the crime was also a terrorist attack. Trial is pending.

When charges were first laid in the Mississauga mosque attack, Peel Regional Police said it was a “hate motivated” crime.

The events started at around 7 a.m. on Saturday, March 19. “It is alleged that a man walked into the mosque and discharged bear spray towards the members of the mosque while brandishing a hatchet,” police said in a statement at the time. “The members of the mosque quickly subdued the man until police arrived.”

No one was seriously hurt during the attack.

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