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

  • Quebec party leaders head to Gatineau to survey tornado-damaged areas

    Canada News CTV News
    MONTREAL -- Quebec's political party leaders set their political differences aside on Saturday as they headed to Gatineau to survey the damage from a tornado that ripped through homes and sent several people to hospital on Friday night. Source
  • Tornado among top 'traumatic events' in Ottawa's history, will take days to restore power, mayor says

    Canada News CBC News
    About 150,000 Hydro Ottawa customers alone remain without power after a twister ripped through the area Friday — and the mayor warns it could take "days" to restore service to those affected by the storm. Speaking to reporters Saturday, Jim Watson said the tornado has plunged large swaths of the city into darkness after the Hydro One-owned Merivale substation was badly damaged by high winds, disconnecting parts of the city from the provincial grid. Source
  • Child drowns after boat with Syrians capsizes off of Lebanon

    World News CTV News
    BEIRUT -- Lebanon's army says a child has drowned after a boat carrying 39 migrants hoping to get to Europe capsized off the northern Lebanese coast. The army says Saturday all other passengers were rescued off the coast of Akkar. Source
  • $154M plan with federal government step toward self-government for Métis: Manitoba Metis Federation

    Canada News CBC News
    A plan that includes $154 million in federal government funding for the Manitoba Metis Federation is just the beginning of a transformational process advancing reconciliation between Canada and the Métis people, MMF president David Chartrand says. Source
  • U.S. airstrike kills 18 al-Shabaab militants in Somalia

    World News CBC News
    A U.S. military airstrike has killed 18 al-Shabaab extremists after U.S. and local forces came under attack in southern Somalia, the U.S. Africa Command said Saturday. The airstrike was carried out in self-defence on Friday about 50 kilometres northwest of the port city of Kismayo, the U.S. Source
  • Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's fate rests on what story Trump believes

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- The fate of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein could turn on whether President Donald Trump believes the account of an ex-FBI official who, as Trump once asserted in a tweet, had "LIED! LIED! LIED!" Source
  • U.S. airstrike kills 18 al-Shabab extremists after U.S. attacked in Somalia

    World News CTV News
    In this Thursday, Feb. 17, 2011 file photo, hundreds of newly trained al-Shabab fighters perform military exercises in the Lafofe area some 18 km. south of Mogadishu, in Somalia. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh, File) Source
  • Tens of thousands without power following tornado in Ottawa region

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA -- Officials are warning people in the Ottawa area to brace for days without power in the wake of a tornado that ripped through the area yesterday afternoon. They're encouraging people to stockpile food and water following the storm, which tore roofs off of homes, overturned cars and felled power lines in Ottawa, nearby Dunrobin, Ont. Source
  • Tens of thousands without power following tornado

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA -- Officials are warning people in the Ottawa area to brace for days without power in the wake of a tornado that ripped through the region yesterday afternoon. They encouraged residents to stockpile food and water following the storm, which tore roofs off of homes, overturned cars and felled power lines in the Ottawa community of Dunrobin and in Gatineau, Que. Source
  • Unclear whether Kavanaugh accuser will testify in Senate

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- The high-stakes brinkmanship over whether Brett Kavanaugh's accuser would testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee came to a momentary standstill as GOP Chairman Chuck Grassley gave Christine Blasey Ford more time to decide on the terms of her appearance. Source