‘This isn’t who we are – and doesn’t reflect the warm welcome Canadians have offered,’ says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Twitter
OTTAWA, Canada (Jan. 10, 2016) — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Saturday, January 9, 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 Friday for a welcome function at the Muslim Association of Canada Center, Vancouver police said.
“This isn’t who we are – and doesn’t reflect the warm welcome Canadians have offered,” Trudeau wrote on Twitter Saturday.
“I condemn the attack on Syrian refugees in Vancouver,” he added.
Police said “a number of people” were treated by paramedics and the Vancouver Fire and Rescue Service for pepper spray exposure.
Public broadcaster CBC pegged the number of affected people at as many as 30.
“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 (VPD) 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.”
The 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,” said board chair for the National Council of Canadian Muslims, Kashif Ahmed, 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.