A woman in a hijab (Photo by Azuan Hashim)
EDMONTON – Two Alberta UCP cabinet ministers have condemned two hate-motivated incidents against women wearing hijabs in Edmonton earlier this month.
On Dec. 8 a 41-year-old Edmonton man was arrested after two Somali women wearing hijabs were allegedly assaulted in the Southgate Centre parking lot at 5015 – 111 St. in Edmonton. On Dec. 15, a 32-year-old woman was arrested for trying to hit at a Black woman wearing a hijab on an Edmonton LRT. The accused also allegedly yelled racially-motivated obscenities.
“I want to make myself very clear, racism, religious intolerance, hatred and discrimination have no place in Alberta,” said Leela Sharon Aheer, Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women.
“Racists have no place in Alberta,” she added. “Anyone who wants to play a part in building our future needs to embrace our pluralistic society and take an active role in creating a welcoming province for all.”
Kaycee Madu, Alberta’s Justice Minister and Solicitor General, said hate-motivated crimes won’t be tolerated and will be treated with the seriousness they deserve.
“Those who commit crimes motivated by hate will be caught and charged. More importantly, the Government of Alberta, on behalf of the people of this province, will make sure the justice system has the resources it needs to address those who commit these crimes.”
The Alberta Anti-Racism Advisory Council said they were “appalled, horrified and disheartened to learn of the hate-motivated incidents documented by the Edmonton Police Service on Dec. 9 and Dec. 15.”
Dec. 8 incident
Edmonton Police charged 41-year-old Richard Stevens with two counts of assault in what they say was a hate-motivated crime against two women wearing hijabs in a vehicle on Dec. 8.
Witnesses told police the man allegedly punched the passenger side window causing it to shatter. Fearing for her safety, the passenger ran from the vehicle. The man ran after the complainant, pushed her to the ground and began assaulting her.
The second woman attempted to assist and was shoved to the ground by the accused, before several citizens intervened and stopped the attack.
“The attack on these women is horrific and our hearts go out to them,” said Sgt. Gary Willits, of the EPS Hate Crime and Violent Extremism Unit.
“These individuals were targeted due to their race, therefore making this a hate-motivated crime. As such, we are utilizing Section 718.2 of the Criminal Code of Canada, which allows courts to consider increased sentencing.”
Dec. 15 incident
Edmonton Police charged Rene Ladouceur, 32, with assault with a weapon on Dec. 15.
Police say a 23-year-old Black woman wearing a hijab on an Edmonton LRT was allegedly yelled at with racially-motivated obscenities without provocation. The accused allegedly tried to hit a woman in the head with a shopping bag while yelling racially-motivated obscenities at her.
The Black woman wearing a hijab, avoided being struck by the accused, then ran past her attacker, as the accused continued to try and stop her escape. An ETS Transit Peace Officer on scene intervened and contacted police. EPS members arrived shortly after and arrested the woman.
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.
“Racism, prejudice and intolerance have no place in Alberta,” said Rajan Sawhney, Minister of Community and Social Services.
“I stand with women of all cultures and faiths who have been marginalized because of how they choose to dress and practise their faith. Their safety, their dignity, their individuality and their voices matter. We all have a part to play and it’s our collective duty as a society to ensure our women, youth, children and seniors feel safe and feel they belong.”