TORONTO — Police are searching for three suspects after two women in hijabs were allegedly verbally and physically harassed on a subway train Wednesday night.
TTC Head of Communications Brad Ross told Global News that two women were on an eastbound subway train leaving Bloor-Yonge Station, when two men and a woman “verbally accosted” them.
“They were harassed and racist comments were made towards them including suggestions that because these two women were wearing hijabs that they must therefore be terrorists and that, ‘we better not say anything more they might blow up the train,’ those kinds of comments,” Ross said.
“One of the victims was pushed by the woman of this trio and an individual witness on the train pressed the emergency alarm.”
Ross said the three suspects fled on foot after the train stopped at Sherbourne station.
He added that the TTC “is taking this very seriously” and that police attended Sherbourne station to take victim and witness statements. Ross said there is likely video and still images that police can use as part of their investigation.
“The words escape me and the TTC in terms of condemning this, there are no words that are strong enough to condemn this behaviour and this action by these three individuals,” he said.
“The TTC is and must remain a safe and secure transit system, it’s one of the safest in the world, and it is our intention to keep it that way. Everybody should be able to ride this system without fear and in total safety and security and we’ll do everything we can to make sure that continues to happen.”
In a separate incident Wednesday night, GO Transit officials discovered anti-Muslim graffiti on a train that was being taken out of service at the GO Transit Willowbrook Rail Maintenance Facility.
“We’re cleaning it now, depending on what it was what they used, it may or may not be that easy to get off. But it won’t go back into service until it’s removed,” Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins told Global News.
“It’s anti-Muslim clearly and it’s displays some violence against women as well.”
Aikins said the graffiti was not tolerated by Metrolinx and issued an apology to any customers that saw the graffiti and was upset by it.
“We really encourage people if they see any incidences of racism or discrimination to report it to us quickly and we’ll take decisive action to find people that do it and protect the people if they’re being hurt and hopefully prevent this from happening,” she said.
“I know we have a big system with hundreds of thousands of people every day but I think the vast majority of our customers don’t tolerate this either and it’s really regretful that something like this would happen.”
The incidents come after police in several Canadian cities have opened investigations into alleged hate crimes and racist incidents since the deadly attacks in Paris that killed at least 129 people on Friday, which prompted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to urge Canadians not to turn to “acts of hatred and racism.”
In Toronto, a woman wearing a hijab was attacked on Monday afternoon while trying to pick her son up after school and in a nearby neighbourhood the words “Muslims Go Home” were scrawled along the white wall of a large apartment complex.
A mosque was torched in Peterborough, Ont., on Sunday and a Hindu temple in Kitchener, Ont., had their windows smashed.
On Wednesday, police in Montreal arrested a 24-year-old in connection to an anti-Muslim Youtube video where a man wearing a Joker mask and promised to “kill one Arab a week.”
With files from Andrew Russell