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Attack on refugees universally condemned

Takver (via Flickr)
Takver (via Flickr)

Vancouver welcome event pepper sprayed by unknown attacker

The Muslim Association of Canada (MAC) had hoped to provide a warm welcome to Syrian refugees arriving in Vancouver earlier this month. Unfortunately, someone else had other plans.

On Jan. 8, a group of about 100 people were gathered at the Muslim Association of Canada Centre in downtown Vancouver. At around 10:30 p.m. an unidentified man on a bicycle rode up to the crowd and pepper sprayed a group of men, women, and children. Among those exposed to the pepper spray were some newly arrived Syrian Refugees.

This is the Second incident of violence against Muslims in Canada since the Oct. 19 election, the other being the arson of a Mosque in Peterborough last November.

Vancouver paramedics and the Vancouver Fire and Rescue Service treated fifteen people for exposure to the spray.

Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer is asking that the person responsible turn himself in.

“It’s a very troubling situation,” Palmer said “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.

“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.”

Political leaders wasted no time in condemning the attacks. Prime Minister Trudeau said over social media, “I condemn the attack on Syrian refugees in Vancouver. This isn’t who we are – and doesn’t reflect the warm welcome Canadians have offered.”

Other federal leaders, such as NDP leader Tom Mulcair, used stronger language, calling the incident “despicable.”

Leader of the Opposition, Rona Ambrose, echoed a sentiment shared by some calling for immediate police action and for those responsible to be “arrested [and] prosecuted.”

Conservative Critic of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Michelle Rempel has taken some flak for condemning the attacks in Cologne, where immigrants have become the popular suspects in a variety of New Years’ incidents, including molestations. Rempel failed to issue a statement on the Vancouver pepper spraying.

The MAC issued a statement saying, “As one of the largest Muslim organizations in Canada, we continue to urge tolerance and understanding in communities across Canada.”

One of the volunteers at the event voiced their dismay, saying the refugees felt “a little bit of disappointment, and a little bit of anger also, because they don’t know, like, why. ‘What’s the reason? We haven’t done anything wrong.'”

Seventeen-year-old Nawal Addo, who was at the welcome event in Vancouver, and was among those attacked, wrote in a blog post “The Syrians have seen enough in their land, they didn’t leave it by choice. For ignorant people to do such thing was an unacceptable action. Canadians should know better.”

In Regina, students are also outraged over the attack, with one saying “It’s awful that one person can have such a negative effect on something that’s trying to be welcoming.”

In a later interview, Syrian refugee Youssef Ahmad al-Suleiman, who was sprayed, said, “Canada stays Canada — Canada of dreams… One individual does not represent the whole Canadian people. There’s always these types of people.”

About Derek Cameron