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

  • Duchess of Sussex reveals she had miscarriage in the summer

    World News CTV News
    LONDON -- The Duchess of Sussex has revealed that she had a miscarriage in July, giving a personal account of the traumatic experience in hope of helping others. Meghan described the miscarriage n an opinion piece in the New York Times on Wednesday. Source
  • 'These spaces are lifelines:' Nunavut lockdown leaves some with nowhere to go

    Canada News CTV News
    IQALUIT -- Caribou stew simmers on a stove top while a staff member chops vegetables in an empty dining room, the sounds of his blade echoing off the walls as it hits the cutting board. This is the scene at Iqaluit's Qajuqturvik Community Food Centre from Sundays to Thursdays. Source
  • EU is willing to be "creative" to get a Brexit trade deal

    World News CTV News
    BRUSSELS -- The European Union on Wednesday committed to be "creative" in the final stages of the Brexit trade negotiations but warned that whatever deal emerges, the United Kingdom will be reduced to "just a valued partner" far removed from its former membership status. Source
  • Au revoir 'America First': Biden team ditches Trump-style nationalism with foreign policy picks

    World News CBC News
    Let's cast a gaze forward to the first few days of Joe Biden's presidency for a glimpse at how dramatic a departure we're about to witness from the "America First" era. We know a fair bit now about Biden's incoming administration, based on his platform and on the slew of top foreign policy officials he introduced on Tuesday. Source
  • How Australia succeeded in lowering COVID-19 cases to near-zero

    World News CBC News
    Unlike other nations, including Canada, which have aimed to maintain new infections at a level that won't overwhelm the medical system, Australia set out to virtually eliminate the virus from its shores. When Australia was hit with a surge of COVID-19 cases in late July just weeks after declaring victory against the first wave, it prompted one of the world's longest lockdowns in Melbourne, for example, closing virtually everything that wasn't a grocery store or hospital for nearly four…
  • Small retailers push back against lockdown policy that favours big-box stores

    Canada News CBC News
    Small businesses in Toronto and Peel Region say it's not fair that they should be closed for in-person shopping while big-box stores can sell all manner of goods — from clothing to books to tech gadgets — if they happen to also sell essential products such as groceries. Source
  • What Canada's hardest-hit provinces can learn from those that handled COVID-19 best

    Canada News CBC News
    When epidemiologist Susan Kirkland opened a Halifax newspaper on Saturday, she was stunned. "Three protest rallies planned," the Chronicle Herald headline read, in part. "Oh, no," the head of public health and epidemiology at Dalhousie University thought to herself. Source
  • A surge in bitcoin in the COVID-19 era outshines gold, but can it last?

    Canada News CBC News
    A return of bitcoin to its stratospheric highs has top financial experts scratching their heads and cryptocurrency boosters saying I told you so. But while supporters insist that it's different this time as bitcoin heads back toward its all-time maximum in December 2017 — which at current exchange rates was somewhere around $26,000 Cdn — many fear that inexperienced speculators are again going to get their fingers badly burned. Source
  • Erin O'Toole's Conservatives are not immune from the struggles of pandemic-rattled premiers

    Canada News CBC News
    Alberta is now one of Canada's worst COVID-19 hotspots and Premier Jason Kenney's handling of the pandemic in his province is getting low marks, according to polls. It might also be sapping support for the federal Conservative Party in its most loyal stronghold. Source
  • Ombudsman says police, first responders must do more to inform crime victims of their rights

    Canada News CBC News
    Five years after Parliament passed a law giving victims of crime new rights, Canada's chief victims' advocate is calling on MPs to fix a regime she says has failed to empower and support those harmed by crime. Source