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

  • With Quebec Liberals on the ropes, liberalism in the province is at a crossroads

    Canada News CBC News
    In the last provincial election, Quebec's Liberal Party suffered its worst defeat in its 151-year history. Even the most optimistic projections suggest the party will fare even worse when the votes are tallied on Monday. Recent polls place Liberal support between 15 and 20 per cent, battling three other parties for second place. Source
  • Food banks and 'care cupboards' are popping up on university campuses. Here's why

    Canada News CBC News
    When Tilova Tul arrived at the University of Alberta from Bangladesh last year as a graduate student, she quickly turned to the campus food bank for help. "I moved here with just two luggages, leaving everything back home," she said. Source
  • Booed in Beauceville: False Facebook post highlights Quebec election online misinformation

    Canada News CBC News
    It was a simple screen grab of a text message, posted to a popular Facebook group. "Legault was in Beauceville today. He went to a restaurant and everybody was booing and yelling at him!" the text said, in French. Source
  • Ukraine's Zelenskyy: No talks with Russia's Putin if land annexed

    World News CTV News
    Ukraine’s president warned Tuesday that Russia’s just concluded “sham referendums” and attempts to annex Ukrainian territory rule out any talks with Moscow as long as Vladimir Putin remains president, and called for Russia’s “complete isolation” and tough new global sanctions. Source
  • Canucks owner's estranged children say he beat and psychologically abused them, court hears

    Canada News CBC News
    Four adult children of Vancouver Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini have all alleged that he physically and psychologically abused them when they were young, a B.C. Supreme Court judge heard Tuesday. The disturbing allegations came to light during a hearing over whether Aquilini is obliged to continue paying child support and covering university expenses for three of his children. Source
  • Russia using referendums 'to conscript Ukrainian citizens,' former Ukrainian ambassador says

    World News CTV News
    Ukraine's former ambassador to Canada says Russia could use so-called referendums in his country to conscript Ukrainians. "We believe the Russians will use it to conscript Ukrainian citizens in the occupied territories into the Russian army," Andriy Shevchenko told Evan Solomon on CTV News Channel's Power Play on Tuesday. Source
  • Judge certifies class-action lawsuit over delayed bail hearings and alleged Charter breaches

    Canada News CBC News
    A class-action lawsuit alleging that the Alberta government breached Charter rights potentially thousands of times by denying people timely bail hearings will go ahead. In a decision filed in Calgary on Monday, Court King's Bench Associate Chief Justice John Rooke certified a class-action suit for individuals arrested between May 2, 2016, and Sept. Source
  • Huge Russia-based disinformation network about Ukraine war disabled

    World News CBC News
    A sprawling disinformation network originating in Russia sought to use hundreds of fake social media accounts and dozens of sham news websites to spread Kremlin talking points about the invasion of Ukraine, Meta revealed Tuesday. The company, which owns Facebook and Instagram, said it identified and disabled the operation before it was able to gain a large audience. Source
  • Ebola deaths in Uganda rise to 23 as outbreak grows

    World News CBC News
    An outbreak of Ebola disease in Uganda is growing. A total of 18 confirmed and 18 probable cases have been reported, including 23 deaths, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday. The agency noted this is the first Ebola disease outbreak caused by Sudan virus in Uganda since 2012. Source
  • Facebook Marketplace seller robbed at gunpoint in coffee shop, Vancouver police warn

    Canada News CTV News
    Vancouver police have issued a public warning after a string of robberies involving Facebook Marketplace users, including one terrifying incident that saw a seller robbed at gunpoint. Authorities said that robbery took place Monday night inside a coffee shop in the city's Kerrisdale neighbourhood, where a Facebook Marketplace user arranged a meeting to sell a designer watch. Source