'No one helped': Investigation underway after Asian UBC student beaten, robbed on bus
VANCOUVER -- A UBC student who was attacked by four teens on a bus is speaking up about her traumatizing experience, more upset about the lack of help from other passengers and the driver than the four teens who beat her up.
The student, who has asked that CTV News Vancouver conceal her identify as she fears for her safety, believes her ethnicity played a role in other passengers’ indifference to her situation and the teens’ willingness to confront her physically.
“I used to think Canadian people are really nice to Asian people or other minorities, but once I experienced what I experienced last night, I couldn't believe myself," said the South Korea-born woman, who has bruises, scrapes and scratches from the clash.
The fourth-year university student was taking the bus home from Broadway late Friday night when she said four teens boarded the bus and began mocking her for a printer she had purchased and was carrying home on the seat next to her.
Minutes later, she says, they pulled out a bottle of vodka from one of their backpacks and began drinking and vaping while talking loudly.
"I felt I needed to step up and say something as a person who lives in Canada, in Vancouver and as a permanent resident. I think I have to say something in the situation," she said, frustrated that neither the bus driver nor any of the other passengers said anything to the teens.
She acknowledges her directions for them to stop drinking and vaping became heated and they were yelling and swearing at each other. That’s when one of the teen girls allegedly started punching her in the face, with the other joining in to punch, scratch and pull her hair as the bus was stopped at Seymour and Pender streets in downtown Vancouver.
The student says she tried to hold one of the teens until police arrived, but the two girls and two boys ran off with her backpack, which had her laptop, phone and wallet inside.
“Every time I kind of think about recalling the situation I think someone can help me and I even thought, ‘What if I am a white girl? Would it be better?’” she asked, rhetorically. "I think (it would’ve been different)."
Metro Vancouver Transit Police tell CTV News they arrested the teens at Commercial-Broadway station soon after the incident. They say they will likely recommend charges against the four teens and that a robbery investigation is underway.
“All four youth have since been released on undertakings and into the care of their guardians,” said Transit police spokesperson Const. Mike Yake. “At this point in the investigation, there is nothing to suggest that alleged robbery is racially-motivated.”
The student says the teens, all of whom were white, didn’t use any racial slurs while arguing with her or assaulting her, but she feels stories about anti-Asian discrimination on the rise during COVID-19 are no longer an abstract issue she’s seen on the news, but something she’s experienced first-hand since her cries for help were ignored by onlookers.
"I'm already traumatized, I feel like everything I believe about Canadian society is kind of destroyed,” she said, despite eight years of living in Canada, throughout her high school and university years.
“I am not feeling safe living here, so it was very (upsetting) to me."
While Transit police aren’t criticizing her and point out every situation is different, they encourage transit riders to reach out to their officers first whenever possible.
“Metro Vancouver Transit Police would like to remind the public that if they come across a situation that makes them feel unsafe or concerned for someone else’s safety to discreetly text us in real-time at 87.77.77,” said Yake. “Violence has no place on the transit system.”