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

  • Brother: Last victim ID'd in Florida condo building collapse

    World News CTV News
    FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. -- The final victim of the condo building collapse in Florida has been identified, a relative said Monday, more than a month after the middle of the night catastrophe that ultimately claimed 98 lives. Source
  • Canada's building codes need more tornado-specific protections: engineering experts

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- In the wake of a devastating tornado that displaced more than 100 residents in southern Ontario earlier this month, engineering experts are calling for Canada’s building codes to be updated to include more protections against the natural disasters. Source
  • StatCan data shows youth unemployment rates have risen during the COVID-19 pandemic

    Canada News CTV News
    HALIFAX -- New data from Statistics Canada shows that while youth unemployment has risen during the COVID-19 pandemic, finding full-time work has been increasingly precarious since the 1980s. The federal agency says both male and female workers between 15 and 30 were less likely to have a full-time job in 2019 compared with 1989, a period marked by a rise in part-time employment for the age group. Source
  • Spate of shootings across Seattle kill four

    World News CTV News
    SEATTLE -- Authorities in Seattle are investigating the fatal shooting of a man in the Lake City neighborhood on Sunday -- the fourth gun homicide in the city in 24 hours. Seattle police spokesperson Valerie Carson said witnesses saw the victim returning to his apartment when a vehicle pulled up and multiple people opened fire. Source
  • Lustre of hosting the Olympics endures for some cities, despite challenges

    World News CBC News
    Host cities spend years preparing for the Olympics — along with billions of dollars and a lot of political capital en route to the finish line. That's the case in Tokyo, where the 2020 Olympic Games are now underway — a year late amid a pandemic and at higher cost than forecast, with many questioning the decision to hold them under the circumstances. Source
  • Pope to UN forum: Hunger is 'crime' violating basic rights

    World News CTV News
    ROME -- Pope Francis on Monday decried as criminal the existence of hunger in a world which can produce enough food for all, building on a warning from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that climate change and conflict are a consequence and driver of poverty and income inequality. Source
  • New York City will require its workers to get vaccinated or be tested weekly for COVID-19

    World News CBC News
    New York City will require all of its municipal workers — including teachers and police officers — to get coronavirus vaccines by mid-September or face weekly COVID-19 testing, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Monday. The rule is expected to affect about 340,000 city employees, making the city one of the largest employers in the U.S. Source
  • N.L. Roman Catholic archdiocese selling land to pay survivors of Mount Cashel abuse

    Canada News CTV News
    ST. JOHN'S, N.L. -- The Roman Catholic archdiocese in Newfoundland and Labrador's capital city is selling properties to pay survivors of abuse at the former Mount Cashel orphanage. Archbishop of St. John's Peter Hundt said in a news release Sunday several parcels of vacant land in St. Source
  • Fewer active fires in B.C., but threat still high in bone-dry southern regions

    Canada News CBC News
    Above average temperatures for many parts of British Columbia aren't expected to ease soon — and Environment Canada says there is no hint of showers until at least the weekend for some southern regions hit hard by wildfires. Source
  • Pink offers to pay bikini bottoms fine for Norwegian beach handball team

    World News CBC News
    U.S. pop singer Pink has offered to pay a fine given to the Norwegian female beach handball team for wearing shorts instead of the required bikini bottoms. On social media Saturday, Pink said she was "very proud" of the team for protesting the rule that prevented them from wearing shorts like their male counterparts. Source