Vancouver mayor apologizes to U.K. tourists deemed 'suspicious'
Published Sunday, January 17, 2016 3:59PM PST
Last Updated Sunday, January 17, 2016 7:30PM PST
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson has apologized to three British tourists who were the subject of an internal police bulletin for shooting video inside Pacific Centre Mall.
Robertson invited Mohammed Sharaz, his 14-year-old son Salahuddin Sharaz, and family friend Mohammed Kareem out to breakfast Sunday morning to apologize on behalf of the city.
“The last thing we want to happen is for them to think they weren’t treated well in Vancouver,” said Robertson.
Surveillance photos of the trio were part of a leaked internal police bulletin, which told officers to be on the lookout for three specific Middle Eastern men seen shooting video in Pacific Centre Mall downtown.
Sharaz, who lives in Manchester, came to Vancouver for treatment for his son’s retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic condition that is slowly taking the teen’s eyesight.
Kareem, who also vision problems, came along for treatment at Wellspring Clinic for Holistic Medicine.
“It’s a case of [my son] going blind - or we have to spend the money and bring him here to give him a better life,” Sharaz told CTV News on Saturday, adding that the teen also has hearing issues.
The trio visited Pacific Centre Mall on Tuesday, and took some photos. Two days passed uneventfully - until Friday morning, when Sharaz went online and was shocked to see surveillance photos of all three men on the news.
“I said ‘look we're on TV - you two are taking pictures and they think we're up to no good,’” recalled Sharaz, noting he bought his son a phone because the teen likes to take pictures of things so he remembers them.
“[My son] likes to show his friends, his brother, his sister that ‘look, I saw this car, I saw this.’ Because that’s how he learns,” Sharaz said, noting his friend also takes pictures of everything because of his severe vision issues.
Sharaz immediately contacted Vancouver police, and the matter was quickly resolved. Officers were very polite and respectful, he says, but he questions how the internal police bulletin got out.
Robertson agrees, and says VPD are investigating the leak.
“Everything was fairly standard operating procedure until there was a leak of that bulletin which is not appropriate,” said Robertson.
“There's been lots of examples in the past that have not been leaked…It’s a concern why this time. Certainly the world is much more concerned about terrorism right now.”
Sharaz says he is considering legal action against Vancity Buzz, the media website that first published the unblurred photos.
However the British tourists understand the concern, and have accepted the mayor’s apology. The VPD has offered to show them around while they continue medical treatment in Vancouver, Sharaz adds.
“What the police have done I don’t have a problem with it - the matter was it could have been very serious,” he said. “So the way they handled it was brilliant…[but] the way it got leaked that shouldn't have happened.”
With files from CTV Vancouver’s Shannon Paterson