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

  • Watchdog report on RCMP's investigation of Colten Boushie shooting due next month

    Canada News CBC News
    The results of an independent probe into how the Saskatchewan RCMP handled its investigation of the Colten Boushie shooting is finally poised for release next month, after a three-year wait. Boushie, 22, was shot and killed after he and four others from the Red Pheasant Cree Nation drove onto Stanley's farm near Biggar, Sask. Source
  • Armenian PM faces military's demand to resign, talks of coup

    World News CTV News
    YEREVAN, ARMENIA -- Armenia's prime minister spoke of an attempted military coup Thursday after the military's General Staff demanded that he step down after months of protests sparked by the nation's defeat in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Azerbaijan. Source
  • German charged with espionage for allegedly passing parliament floor plans to Russia

    World News CTV News
    BERLIN -- A German man has been charged with espionage for allegedly passing information on properties used by the German parliament to Russian military intelligence, prosecutors said Thursday. The suspect, identified only as Jens F. Source
  • China denies subjecting U.S. diplomats to COVID-19 anal tests

    World News CTV News
    BEIJING -- China on Thursday denied subjecting U.S. diplomats to COVID-19 anal tests following reports from Washington that some of its personnel were being made to undergo the procedure. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters at a daily briefing that "China has never asked U.S. Source
  • So you got your COVID-19 shot. Does that mean life goes back to normal?

    Canada News CBC News
    After Toronto family physician Dr. Tali Bogler received her final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in January, she felt a newfound sense of relief — but also knew her daily life wasn't going to suddenly change. On an afternoon in late February, while still dressed in her bright blue hospital scrubs after a shift, she was cuddling one of her twin daughters while catching up with her parents on a video chat. Source
  • In the shadow of her killer's verdict, Cindy Gladue's family wants to reclaim her humanity

    Canada News CBC News
    Donna McLeod held her great-grandson Dayton by a firepit crackling flames in an Edmonton backyardlast week and spoke about a dream she longed to have about Cindy Gladue, now gone for 10 years. Gladue, McLeod's oldest daughter, was found dead in 2011 in an Edmonton hotel room that has since changed its name. Source
  • 'It's not their fault': Nunavut students who act violently let down by lack of counselling, educators say

    Canada News CBC News
    This is Part 2 of a three-part series on violence in Nunavut's schools. CBC InvestigatesNunavut schools had 1,000 violent incidents last year, CBC investigation reveals Source
  • Playstations scarce, automakers stalled amid semiconductor shortage brought on by pandemic

    Canada News CBC News
    Max Nekrasov, 15, is relentless in his repeated search for a sought-after treasure that's been elusive during the COVID-19 pandemic: The Playstation 5. The Toronto teen runs a Twitter account with more than 19,000 followers that flags whenever a retailer restocks the popular video game console. Source
  • What experts say Canada needs to do to become a leader in the electric vehicle industry

    Canada News CBC News
    This week's meeting between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Joe Biden was a signal of momentum for electric vehicles that those in Canada's industry have been waiting for. In the roadmap released following the meeting, both leaders promised to work together to build supply chains for electric vehicle (EV) battery development so Canada and the U.S. Source
  • Quebec under fire for failing to accommodate seniors unable to leave home for vaccinations

    Canada News CBC News
    Twenty five years ago, Judith Cowling was told she had two years to live when she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer. Now 81, Cowling is in palliative care at home in Westmount, a suburb west of downtown Montreal, home after having exhausted treatment options that, for all those years, helped her battle what she calls a "clever disease. Source