Defence minister reaches out to Syrian refugees pepper-sprayed in Vancouver

VANCOUVER -- A prominent member of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's cabinet is reaching out to Syrian refugees after a group of newly arrived migrants were pepper sprayed at a welcome event in Vancouver.

See Full Article

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan described Friday night's attack as an "isolated incident" and said the Syrian refugees he met with the following day were resilient and happy to be in Canada.

"In the last 24 hours I was able to visit a mosque, a church and a Sikh gurdwara, all communities who are supporting and welcoming refugees. That's the real Canadian way," he said on Sunday.

"It's so good to see communities rallying around after an event like that to be able to say that, 'No, this is who we really are."'

A crowd was gathered outside a Muslim Association of Canada centre during an event for government-sponsored Syrian refugees on Friday around 10:30 p.m. when a man on a bicycle rode by and pepper sprayed about 15 people, said Vancouver police spokesman St. Randy Fincham.

Police are investigating the incident as a hate crime.

Sajjan spoke with some of the Syrian refugees present for the attack during a welcome gathering in his Vancouver-area riding Saturday evening that was planned before Friday's pepper spray incident.

"They're so happy to be able to be here in Canada," he said, describing the event's atmosphere as celebratory.

"Because of the positive reaction that they're getting from everywhere they go, a horrible but isolated incident like this can be quickly forgotten and they can get on with their life."

Tima Kurdi, a prominent member of Canada's Syrian community, dismissed the attack as a one-off event that doesn't reflect how the majority of Canadians view the newly arrived migrants.

She said the support Canadians have shown to refugees is "unbelievable" and they shouldn't be blamed for Friday night's incident.

"To be honest, Canadian people would not do this, the majority of them," she said. "They are big supporters to the refugees."

Kurdi became an overnight spokeswoman for the plight of Syrian refugees after a photo of her three-year-old nephew lying dead on a Turkish beach drew global outrage and attention to the migrant crisis in the Middle East.

Canada's Immigration Minister John McCallum described Friday's pepper spraying as an "isolated incident" that won't tarnish the country's migrant-friendly reputation.

The world recognizes that Canada is very welcoming to refugees, and that message will continue to resonate, said McCallum.

Canada has been praised on the world stage for its pledge to take in 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of next month, and a photo of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcoming migrants at the airport was published around the world.

McCallum said his government utterly condemns the pepper spraying and says Syrian refugees have no reason to feel unsafe in Canada.

"I think that the experience that the vast majority of them have, of being welcomed at the airport, and given what they need, clothing and hats and boots, and large numbers of welcoming Canadians ... I think that sent a very clear message," he said in an interview Saturday.

"I think that experience shared by so many of the refugees is going to easily trump this one isolated incident."

British Columbia's jobs minister Shirley Bond said Saturday that she was dismayed that the province will be talked about across the country because of a "shameful act."

She said the incident is entirely contrary to what she's seen across B.C., where people have opened their homes and offered generosity to Syrian refugees.

"British Columbia is known as a place that is inclusive, that is incredibly multicultural," she said.

"I was heartsick, because this is not who we are. It does not reflect our values. I think British Columbians need to stand up and condemn what happened, and I think that will be the strongest message we can send."



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • 39 people found dead in truck container in southeast England

    World News CBC News
    Police in southeastern England say 39 people were found dead in a truck container believed to have come from Bulgaria. A 25-year-old-man from Northern Ireland has been arrested on suspicion of murder. Chief Superintendent Andrew Mariner said Wednesday that authorities are in the process of trying to identify the 38 adults and one teenager. Source
  • U.K. prime minister mulls early election over Brexit impasse

    World News CTV News
    LONDON -- British Prime Minister Boris Johnson appears to be pushing for an early general election after Parliament blocked a fast-track plan to approve his Brexit deal before Britain's scheduled departure from the European Union on Oct. Source
  • How often does the party with the most seats lose the popular vote?

    Canada News CBC News
    With results now in for all 338 ridings after Monday's election, the Liberals are again set to form the government, albeit a minority. That means the road ahead will be bumpy, with the party having to bridge gaps, mend wounds and work together with other parties to cling to power. Source
  • The Conservatives' climate change conundrum: Don Pittis

    Canada News CBC News
    Much has been made of the difficulty facing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as he tries to manage a fractured country with a minority Liberal government. But Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer himself is facing a burden so onerous it seems almost impossible. Source
  • Appointing a western senator to cabinet would be 'counterproductive', independent senator warns

    Canada News CBC News
    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is being told to not even think about appointing an independent senator to fill the regional hole at the cabinet table created by Monday's election. The time-honoured tradition, dating back decades, has been for prime ministers to pluck potential ministers from the Senate when the need arises — usually to give voice to parts of the country shut out of government in the House of Commons. Source
  • Meet the class of 2019: Notable rookies headed to Parliament Hill

    Canada News CBC News
    Canada's new Parliament will look a lot different when it reconvenes after this 43rd general election. While some high-profile candidates for each of the main parties failed to secure their seats — including veteran politicians like Lisa Raitt and Ralph Goodale — some notable rookies will soon be sitting on the government and opposition benches. Source
  • How vote-splitting helped — and hurt — the federal parties

    Canada News CBC News
    Vote-splitting is at the heart of many heated election season discussions of strategic voting. It's most often cited by Liberals late in campaigns as a reason for progressive voters to rally around their party. Vote NDP or Bloc or Green, the argument goes, and you may end up electing a Conservative. Source
  • Chris the sheep, famed for record-breaking fleece, dies

    World News CTV News
    An Australian sheep that entered the Guinness World Records after being found with an enormously overgrown fleece has died, its carers announced. Chris the merino sheep made global headlines after being found wandering alone outside Australia's capital Canberra with masses of wool sagging from its frame in 2015. Source
  • Russia, Turkey seal power in northeast Syria with new accord

    World News CTV News
    ANKARA, Turkey — Russia and Turkey reached an agreement Tuesday that would cement their power in Syria, deploying their forces across nearly its entire northeastern border to fill the void left by U.S. President Donald Trump’s abrupt withdrawal of U.S. Source
  • Northern Ireland decriminalizes abortion, same-sex marriage

    World News CTV News
    Same-sex marriage and abortion laws in Northern Ireland were liberalized on Monday in a landmark shift for the province aimed at bringing it into line with mainland Britain but which has stoked resentment. The relaxation of the U.K. Source