Pepper-spray attack on refugees treated as 'hate-motivated crime': Vancouver police

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is condemning an attack on Syrian refugees in Vancouver, after police say a man pepper-sprayed a group at a welcoming event.

See Full Article

Officers say the incident happened outside of the Muslim Association of Canada Centre, just after 10:30 p.m. on Friday.

The centre was holding a "Welcome Night" for refugees that evening, and a crowd of people were gathered outside when an unknown man approached on a bicycle.

Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer said the man then pepper-sprayed the group, causing harm to approximately 15 men, women and children.

Witnesses at the scene described the sudden attack.

"I saw people running out of the centre and crying and coughing," a witness named Fatima told CTV Vancouver. "I (could) smell the black pepper. And it did hurt, of course."

Paramedics arrived on scene to treat those hit by the spray. They said nobody was seriously injured.

Palmer told a news conference Saturday that police are now investigating the incident as a “hate-motivated crime.”

He also said that investigators are looking to obtain video surveillance from surrounding businesses in efforts to identify a suspect.

No images of a suspect have been released yet.

On Saturday, Trudeau responded to the incident on Twitter.

"I condemn the attack on Syrian refugees in Vancouver," the prime minister wrote. "This isn't who we are – and doesn't reflect the warm welcome Canadians have offered."

"I condemn the attack on Syrian refugees in Vancouver," the prime minister wrote. "This isn't who we are – and doesn't reflect the warm welcome Canadians have offered."

I condemn the attack on Syrian refugees in Vancouver. This isn't who we are - and doesn't reflect the warm welcome Canadians have offered.

— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) January 9, 2016

Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship John McCallum expressed similar sentiments at a Saturday afternoon media availability, saying he was “shocked and appalled” by the attack, which he deemed “an isolated incident.”

“It does not reflect the values of our country and it is my hope that the Vancouver police will soon be able to arrest the perpetrator,” McCallum told reporters.

The minister reiterated that the majority of Canadians support the refugee resettlement efforts and are proud of Canada’s multiculturalism. He pointed to the story of a mosque in Peterborough, Ont. that was burned down last November and how the community “rose up” to help fund the repairs.

“As illustrated by the response of the community in Peterborough, the great majority of Canadians are strongly in favour of a multicultural society in which all communities and religions are respected.”

McCallum added that he is not concerned about the incident tarnishing Canada’s reputation on the global stage.

“The picture of Justin Trudeau welcoming the first plane [of refugees in Toronto] has gone around the world and partly as a result of that, we now have a reputation as a country that welcomes refugees with open arms,” he said.

In a post on Twitter, B.C. Premier Christy Clark called the incident "intolerable, regardless of motivation.”

Last night's attack on refugees is intolerable, regardless of motivation. Please join me in condemning it, and welcoming new Canadians.

— Christy Clark (@christyclarkbc) January 9, 2016

The attack has been labelled an act Islamophobia by Samer Majzoub, president of the Canadian Muslim Forum.

“What could this be, beside hatred or racism?” Majzoub said on CTV’s News Channel Saturday.

Unfortunately, attacks on Canadian Muslims are “not something new to the Canadian Muslim community,” Majzoub said, pointing to reports of hijab-wearing women being attacked in public places.

Majzoub repeated the prime minister’s message that the Vancouver attack “does not in any way reflect who we are as Canadians.”

Police are now looking for the man on the bicycle. He is described as having a slim build and was seen wearing a white or grey hooded sweatshirt at the time of the event.

Vancouver police have also called in several specialized officers to help investigate the attack, including a hate crime detective, a Muslim liaison officer and the force’s diversity unit.

With files from CTV Vancouver



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Roadside bombing targets Taliban, kills Afghan civilians

    World News CTV News
    KABUL, AFGHANISTAN -- A roadside bombing targeting a Taliban vehicle in eastern Afghanistan killed at least two civilians Saturday, including a child, Taliban and health officials said. Four others were wounded. Two bombs detonated as a Taliban vehicle was passing by, killing one child, district police chief Ismatullah Mubariz said, adding that no Taliban fighters were harmed. Source
  • White House further postpones disclosure of JFK assassination documents, citing COVID-19

    World News CTV News
    The White House announced late Friday that it would further postpone the release of more documents related to the 1963 assassination of former U.S. president John F. Kennedy, pointing to the "significant impact" of the COVID-19 pandemic. Source
  • Frenchman tied to far-right abduction charged with terrorism

    World News CTV News
    PARIS -- A former politician who called for the overthrow of the French government has been charged with terrorism in connection with what authorities have said was an extreme-right plot to attack vaccination centers, a masonic lodge and other targets. Source
  • Deal on Biden's US$2T plan edges closer; Harris is 'confident'

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- A deal within reach, U.S. President Joe Biden and Congress' top Democrats edged close to sealing their giant domestic legislation, though the informal deadline appeared to slip as they worked to scale back the measure and determine how to pay for it. Source
  • North Korea slams U.S. for supporting Taiwan in nod to ally China

    World News CTV News
    SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA -- North Korea on Saturday accused the Biden administration of raising military tensions with China through its "reckless" backing of Taiwan, and said that the growing U.S. military presence in the region constitutes a potential threat to the North. Source
  • Ukraine sees new record high in virus deaths, infections

    World News CTV News
    KYIV, UKRAINE -- Ukraine's coronavirus infections and deaths reached all-time highs for a second straight day Friday, in a growing challenge for the country with one of Europe's lowest shares of vaccinated people. Ukrainian health authorities reported 23,785 new confirmed infections and 614 deaths in the past 24 hours. Source
  • Jury gets chance to hear Elizabeth Holmes' bold promises

    World News CTV News
    SAN JOSE, CALIF. -- A jury weighing the fate of fallen Silicon Valley star Elizabeth Holmes got its first chance Friday to listen to recordings of her boasting to investors about purported breakthroughs in a blood-testing technology. Source
  • Winnipeg makeup artist creates 31 days of spooky Halloween looks

    Canada News CBC News
    What do you get when you combine the grim smile of Pennywise — the evil sewer-dwelling clown from It — with the madness of Beetlejuice, the mischievous, green-haired ghost in a black-and-white striped suit? One terrifying makeup mash-up — and exactly the kind of spooky look Winnipeg makeup artist Maddy Harms has set out to create every day this month. Source
  • Saudi Arabia announces goal of net-zero emissions by 2060

    World News CBC News
    One of the world's largest oil producers, Saudi Arabia, announced Saturday it aims to reach "net zero" greenhouse gas emissions by 2060, joining more than 100 countries in a global effort to try and curb man-made climate change. Source
  • Toronto man celebrates 100th birthday by doing what he says keeps him young: dancing

    Canada News CBC News
    It's a Wednesday afternoon, but inside an unassuming Etobicoke dance hall, it feels like Saturday night. While the dance floor is full — physically distanced, with dancers wearing masks — all eyes are on Harry Mitchell. It's his 100th birthday and this is how he wanted to celebrate: surrounded by family and friends, gliding on the dance floor. Source