VANCOUVER: Group including some Syrians gets pepper sprayed, politicians go ballistic
‘It is a hate crime against new people who have come to Canada and that is a pretty serious thing’
CBC News Posted: Jan 09, 2016 2:51 PM PT Last Updated: Jan 09, 2016 6:17 PM PT
Shortly after 10:30 p.m. PT Friday 100 people were gathered outside of the Muslim Association of Canada Centre, located at 2122 Kingsway Avenue, when an unknown man on a bicycle rode up and pepper sprayed a group of men, women and children, which included newly arrived refugees from Syria.
Paramedics and the Vancouver Fire and Rescue Service treated 15 people for exposure to pepper spray.
“We’re going to put the necessary resources into this investigation to identify the suspect, solve the crime and make sure we assist the victims in this troubling incident.”
Palmer said Vancouver police investigate up to 50 hate crimes a year, but this one is particularly concerning because it involves so many people.
“It is a hate crime against new people who have come to Canada and that is a pretty serious thing,” he said.
Political leaders speak out
This incident drew condemnation from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and both opposition leaders.
“This isn’t who we are,” Trudeau said in a tweet. Robertson, also on Twitter, described the incident as a “disgusting display of hate.”
“It’s a very troubling situation and the actions of one man shed a negative light on all of the positive work that’s been done to welcome the Syrian refugees into our communities,” Chief Const. Adam Palmer said at the Vancouver Police Department’s main headquarters in the city’s downtown area.Police are searching for the man on the bicycle, who is believed to have been wearing a white hooded sweatshirt and is described as having a slim build.No arrests have been made. Police continue to canvass for private surveillance video and use community liaison officers, along with other resources, to reach out to the Muslim community, while Palmer appealed directly to the suspect himself.NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair called it “a despicable, violent act,” while interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose said it is “not reflective of an inclusive Canada.””I would ask them to turn themselves in and explain yourself and let’s get to the bottom of this,” he said.