Canadian prime minister denounces pepper-spray attack on Syrian refugees

The Guardian

Syrian refugees, including children, were pepper-sprayed during an event at a Muslim centre in Vancouver, an incident police are treating as a hate crime

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has condemned the pepper spraying of a group of Syrian refugees: ‘This isn’t who we are – and doesn’t reflect the warm welcome Canadians have offered.’ Photograph: Sean Kilpatrick/AP
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has condemned the pepper spraying of a group of Syrian refugees: ‘This isn’t who we are – and doesn’t reflect the warm welcome Canadians have offered.’ Photograph: Sean Kilpatrick/AP

 

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Saturday condemned an attack on Syrian refugees who were pepper-sprayed during a welcome event in Vancouver, an incident police are treating as a hate crime.

The group of newly arrived Syrians, which included children, was sprayed by an unknown bicyclist as they gathered outdoors on Friday for a welcome function at the Muslim Association of Canada Centre, Vancouver police said.

“This isn’t who we are – and doesn’t reflect the warm welcome Canadians have offered,” Trudeau wrote on Twitter on Saturday.

“I condemn the attack on Syrian refugees in Vancouver.”

Police said “a number of people” were treated by paramedics and the Vancouver fire and rescue service for pepper spray exposure.

Public broadcaster CBC said up to 30 people were affected.

“Although the motive for the pepper-spraying is unknown at this time, investigators are treating it as a hate-motivated crime, until determined otherwise,” the Vancouver police department said in a statement.

Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson tweeted that the incident “was a disgusting display of hate – and Vancouver won’t stand for it.”

VPD is carrying out an investigation and searching for the perpetrator, who is thought to have been wearing a white hooded sweatshirt.

No arrests have been made, it said.

“This is an act of cowardice condemned by all Canadians of conscience,” board chair for the National Council of Canadian Muslims, Kashif Ahmed, said in a statement.

The Canadian government said it welcomed more than 6,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2015 but fell short of its pledge to take in 10,000. It vowed, however, to meet that target in January.

Canada takes in an average of 250,000 refugees from around the world each year.

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