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

  • Virus-free U.K. pilot, symbol of Vietnam's pandemic success, to return home

    World News CBC News
    Vietnam's most seriously ill COVID-19 patient, a British pilot who at one point seemed close to death, left hospital on Saturday on his way home after a dramatic recovery that attracted national attention. The case of Stephen Cameron, a pilot for national carrier Vietnam Airlines, became a sensation in Vietnam, where a combination of targeted testing and an aggressive quarantine program has kept its coronavirus tally to an impressively low 370 cases, and zero deaths. Source
  • RCMP says speculation over Rideau Hall outcome if suspect had been non-white a ‘distraction’

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Public speculation that the Rideau Hall arrest last week by the RCMP would have ended differently had the suspect been non-white is a “negative distraction” and “disheartening,” RCMP said in a statement issued late on Friday. Source
  • Trump commutes longtime friend Roger Stone's prison sentence

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump commuted the sentence of his longtime political confidant Roger Stone on Friday, just days before he was set to report to prison. The move, short of a full pardon, is sure to alarm critics who have long railed against the president's repeated interventions in the nation's justice system. Source
  • Flood-weary Venice puts inflatable barriers to the test

    World News CBC News
    Venice has conducted a trial run of an ambitious anti-flood system of 78 inflatable barriers in hopes of protecting the lagoon city from devastating high tides. At a ceremony in Venice in Friday, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte pressed a button that activated compressors to pump air into the bright yellow barriers, which then started rising from the sea to act as a kind of a dike-on-demand. Source
  • 11 people drowned at rocky beach in northern Egypt

    World News CTV News
    CAIRO -- Eleven people drowned off the coast of northern Egypt, local authorities said Friday, at a beach known for its rocky jetty and fast-moving waters. The tragedy unfolded at a beach in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, when a young boy ran into the sea and began having difficulties, said the city's central tourism administration. Source
  • Canada's UNESCO natural wonders

    Canada News CBC News
    A wild horse grazes at Dungeon Provincial Park in Newfoundland and Labrador's Bonavista Peninsula, part of Discovery Geopark, which has just been named a UNESCO Global Geopark. Source
  • Russia accuses Canada and the U.S. of violating Open Skies treaty

    World News CBC News
    Russia is claiming Canada and the United States have violated a key international accord designed to build trust and prevent wars between former Cold War adversaries — and accuses Washington's allies of kowtowing to the Trump administration on U.S. Source
  • Hundreds try to storm Serbian parliament as protests against president intensify

    World News CBC News
    Hundreds of demonstrators tried to storm Serbia's parliament on Friday, clashing with police who fired tear gas during the fourth night of protests against the president's increasingly authoritarian rule. Demonstrators — who were defying a ban on mass gatherings amid a spike in COVID-19 infections — threw bottles, rocks and flares at the police guarding the domed parliament building in central Belgrade and removed the metal fences in front of it. Source
  • Russia, China veto UN resolution to maintain aid for rebel-held areas in Syria

    World News CBC News
    Russia and China vetoed a UN resolution backed by the 13 other Security Council members Friday that would have maintained humanitarian aid deliveries to Syria's mainly rebel-held northwest through two crossing points from Turkey — just hours before the current mandate expires. Source
  • Students won't be able to physically distance in any re-entry scenario, says one Alberta school board

    Canada News CTV News
    CALGARY -- The provincial government won't be making a final decision on what the 2020-21 school year will look like for families until next month, but one Alberta school board has released details about its plans for all the possible scenarios. Source