Syrian refugees grateful for support in wake of pepper-spray attack

VANCOUVER - Ahmad Hwichan gestures to his throat and grimaces as he talks about coughing up blood and hearing children screaming in the chaotic aftermath of last week's pepper-spray attack in Vancouver.

See Full Article

The newly arrived government-sponsored refugee from Syria was one of about a dozen people who were sprayed by a man on a bicycle outside a welcome ceremony around 10:30 p.m. on Friday.

Despite the suffering, the unsavoury incident has failed to temper the enthusiasm and gratitude Hwichan and other refugees feel toward their adopted country and its citizens.

"This doesn't change my point of view of Canada. It will never change," Hwichan said through a translator on Tuesday, four days after the attack.

"This was probably one guy who was drunk or, I don't know, crazy."

He added in English without the help of a translator: "I love you Canada so much."

The pepper spraying prompted universal condemnation from political leaders, including Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, B.C. Premier Christy Clark and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan.

Syrian refugee Youssef Ahmad al-Suleiman, also hit in the attack, recounted how he and his fellow newcomers were stunned after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took to Twitter and apologized on behalf of himself and the Canadian people.

"We're not used to this back home in our own country," al-Suleiman said, using a translator. "(Syrian President) Bashar al-Assad killed around 300,000 people and did not apologize once.

"Canada stays Canada - Canada of dreams," he added. "One individual does not represent the whole Canadian people."

Al-Suleiman recalled seeing a man wearing a helmet cycle up to their group, which was waiting on the sidewalk outside a Muslim Association of Canada centre for a bus to return to their residence. The man sprayed something once or twice toward the crowd and quickly left, he said.

Hazaa Sahal and his son were also struck by the spray.

The 44-year-old father of three described resorting to a strategy used by protesters in Syria, who would pour Pepsi or Coke on their faces to counteract the effects of tear gas during anti-government demonstrations.

But he said the technique proved ineffective against pepper spray and actually worsened the stinging.

Sahal explained how immediately after the incident some refugees wished they had never come to Canada.

That feeling quickly evaporated when they saw the overwhelming positive response from police, health officials, the government and the Canadian public, he added.

"There is always good and bad. But in this country the good is more than the bad," Sahal said in Arabic.

"We felt like nothing bad happens here and goes without being punished, or the actor being held accountable."

Shadi al-Radi said the entire experience actually strengthened his faith in his new country.

"We saw the attention that was given by the prime minister himself. Now we have more confidence in Canada and more confidence in the government," said al-Radi through a translator. The 30-year-old came to Canada with his wife and one-year-old child.

"We immediately forgot about what happened when we saw all of this attention."

Vancouver police spokesman Sgt. Randy Fincham has said officers are investigating Friday's incident as a hate crime.

Canada has committed to take in 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of next month.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Hurricane Michael victims ID'd as death toll rises, recovery effort drags on

    World News CBC News
    Officials say the death toll from Hurricane Michael now stands at 35, including 25 who died in Florida. On Friday, authorities confirmed that a body recovered Monday was that of Aggie Vicari, a missing 79-year-old Mexico Beach woman. Source
  • Russian woman charged in first 2018 U.S. election meddling case

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- The U.S. accused a Russian woman on Friday of helping oversee the finances of a sweeping, secretive effort to sway American public opinion through social media in the first federal case alleging foreign interference in the 2018 midterm elections. Source
  • Police say fatal shooting in Abbotsford, B.C., related to gang conflict

    Canada News CTV News
    VANCOUVER - Police say a man who was shot to death Thursday evening in Abbotsford, B.C., is linked to the ongoing gang conflict in the Lower Mainland and was targeted for murder. Cpl. Frank Jang of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team says the victim has been identified, but his name will not be released until further investigation is complete. Source
  • Support from above: How Canada is aiding peacekeeping efforts in war-torn Mali

    Canada News CTV News
    As a child growing up in Nova Scotia, Cpl. Nicole Reid didn’t have very many nice belongings. “The things I had, I had to fix with my father so they worked and when I didn’t understand, I taught myself how to do it,” she explained. Source
  • Toronto police raid and shut down five marijuana dispensaries, vow to close more

    Canada News CTV News
    Toronto police have shut down five pot shops in a co-ordinated raid Friday afternoon. Police spokesman Gary Long says the drug squad charged and released eight people under the new provincial cannabis legislation. It is only legal to buy marijuana in Ontario from the province's online website and police Chief Mark Saunders vowed to shut down illegal dispensaries after marijuana became legal on Wednesday. Source
  • Unburied fetuses, other bodies found in second funeral home

    World News CTV News
    DETROIT -- About 36 fetuses and infants have been removed from a Detroit funeral home, the second facility where remains have been improperly disposed. Detroit police raided Perry Funeral Home on Friday and found the remains. Source
  • 'I owe my life to this game': Jordin Tootoo retiring from NHL

    Canada News CBC News
    The first Inuk to play in the National Hockey League is retiring. Jordin Tootoo, 35, made the announcement Friday afternoon in Brandon, Man., where he began his hockey career playing for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League in 1999. Source
  • Swoop fails to get regulatory approval for U.S. flights, more than 20 trips cancelled

    Canada News CTV News
    Thousands of airline passengers have been left stranded after new Canadian low-cost carrier Swoop failed to get all the regulatory approvals needed for trips to the United States. The airline has been forced to cancel some of its flights last minute, with flights to the U.S. Source
  • Workers tied up in armed attack on legal Ontario pot grow-op

    Canada News CBC News
    Four workers were tied up and several items were taken in an armed attack on a legal marijuana grow-op near Beaverton, Ont., early Thursday morning, according to police. Durham Regional Police say that at approximately 6 a.m. Source
  • Ontario does brisk business with 100,000 pot orders in first 24 hours

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- The Ontario Cannabis Store says it has received about 100,000 online orders in the first 24 hours that marijuana was legal in Canada. The government-run OCS says 12,000 of those orders came within the first hour after legalization Wednesday morning. Source