“The Issue” – The Edmonton Police unit informed the Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council on Tuesday, in a letter confirming an investigation by the EPS Hate Crimes Unit, that the attack “appeared to be racially and hate-motivated.“
A woman wearing a hijab was assaulted on Tuesday in Edmonton — the second high-profile attack in seven days against Muslim women wearing headscarves. Both attacks took place at the Southgate Centre, a mall at 51st Avenue and 111th Street in south Edmonton.
The Mayor of Edmonton, Don Iveson, denounced the assaults as “heartbreaking” stating that “the responsibility to condemn racially motivated behaviour falls on all of us.“
According to Mcfee, the victim — a 23-year-old Black woman — had just entered the southeast doors of the Southgate LRT station around 10:45 a.m. when she was accosted by a stranger.
The accused repeatedly tried to strike the victim in the head with a shopping bag while yelling racially-motivated obscenities at her, McFee said. The victim ran away while the attacker tried to “thwart her escape,” McFee said. A transit peace officer at the scene intervened and called police.
Islamophobic Assaults on the Rise in Edmonton
Faisal Khan Suri, president of the Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council, said the council has also been in contact with the victim of Tuesday’s attack, and her family. “The suspect had swung at the individual,” Suri said. “She kind of ducked out of the way, so she did not get hit. But there was … one or two tries, attempts to assault the individual.“
There has been a troubling rise in Islamophobia and racism in the city. “They’re being targeted by their identity, what they show,” Suri said. “These are hijab-wearing women whose identity is very visible, and what is happening is happening out of hate.“
Earlier on the December 8, Edmonton police officers responded to an assault in progress in the parking lot around 3:40 p.m. Officers were told that a man approached two Somali women wearing hijabs sitting in their vehicle and began yelling racially motivated obscenities at them.
Following an investigation by the Hate Crimes and Violent Extremism Unit, Richard Bradley Stevens, 41, was charged with two counts of assault and one count of mischief.
An Edmonton Human Rights Advocate, Mahamad Accord, who works with the Edmonton Coalition for Human Rights, said he received a report of a racist attack from one Muslim woman who was hospitalized Monday after she had a bottle smashed on her head while riding the LRT. He also said that he heard from two more women by Monday afternoon who had men yell hateful things at them in public.
“Women will bear the brunt of the racism, I guarantee you because they display the hijab,” Accord said.
The Edmonton Police unit wrote a letter to the Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council on Tuesday, confirming an investigation by the EPS Hate Crimes Unit. In the letter, the police confirmed that the attack “appeared to be racially and hate-motivated.“
The perpetrator, Rene Ladouceur, 32, is charged with assault with a weapon and nine outstanding warrants for unrelated charges.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, police said that the EPS Hate Crimes and Violent Extremism Unit is also recommending that Section 718.2 of the Criminal Code of Canada be applied in this case, allowing the courts to consider increased sentencing when there is evidence the offence was motivated by hatred. They also stated that the two incidents at the Southgate Shopping Centre are not believed to be related.
In a statement on Facebook on Tuesday, the Muslim affairs council thanked the Edmonton Police Service for its “prompt response” in the latest investigation and urged community members to be vigilant of their personal safety.
Edmonton’s Muslim community is on edge, Suri said. “These are a couple of utterly unprovoked incidences,” he said. “Unequivocally horrendous and horrific for anyone to experience. There’s definitely fear because this could be anyone’s daughter, sister, mother.“
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