'This is not what they deserve': Syrian refugees pepper-sprayed
Published Saturday, January 9, 2016 8:43AM PST
Last Updated Saturday, January 9, 2016 6:02PM PST
What was supposed to be a welcoming night for new Syrian refugees ended with a pepper spray attack in Vancouver Friday night.
Vancouver police said a large crowd was standing outside the Muslim Association of Canada centre on Kingsway Avenue at about 10:30 p.m., when a man on a bicycle rode past and sprayed the group.
Seventeen-year-old Nawal Addo was one of those hit.
“We were just standing outside and we all just started coughing and our eyes were burning,” she said.
Organizers say more than 30 people were sprayed and multiple people were treated, including a two-year-old child, according to Addo, who was raised in Canada. Police say nobody was seriously in
The refugees were at an event welcoming them to Canada. It was organized by the Muslim Association of Canada.
“Everything was going so good and then that nutcase shows up and abuses everybody,” said Tarek Ramadan from the Muslim Association.
He said for many of the refugees it was the first time they had left their hotel since arriving 10 days ago.
“We’ve been talking to them all night about how wonderful Canada is, and they’re welcome and it’s safe,” he said.
Nawal Addo said the refugees were very upset.
“They’ve seen enough at home,” she said. “Us as Canadians , we should not be welcoming them in this type of way.”
“This is not what they deserve.”
Police say the motive for the attack is not known, but will be treated as a hate motivated crime until determined otherwise.
Officers are searching for the man on the bicycle, who is believed to have been wearing a white hooded sweatshirt.
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took to social media to condemn the attack, as did B.C. Premier Christy Clark and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson.
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.— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) January 9, 2016
Last night's attack on refugees is intolerable, regardless of motivation. Please join me in condemning it, and welcoming new Canadians.— Christy Clark (@christyclarkbc) January 9, 2016
Last night’s pepper spray incident was a disgusting display of hate - and Vancouver won’t stand for it. #VanWelcomesRefugees and always will— Gregor Robertson (@MayorGregor) January 9, 2016