October 12, 2018 11:42 am
Updated: October 12, 2018 7:52 pm

Police search for suspect wanted in arson at Toronto hotel housing refugees

WATCH ABOVE: As Catherine McDonald reports, more than 500 refugees are being temporarily housed in The Radisson Hotel and many wonder if the incident is related to other recent anti-immigration sentiment.


Toronto police say they are searching for a suspect after an alleged arson at an east-end hotel housing refugees last week.

On Oct. 2 just after 10:30 p.m., police and fire services were called to the Radisson Hotel at 55 Hallcrown Place for reports of a fire.

READ MORE: Asylum seekers in Toronto being moved from college dormitories ahead of deadline: Bill Blair

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When they arrived, authorities extinguished the fire and found that it originated from the third floor. It was later determined that the fire was started intentionally, police said.

“Everybody was running out and somebody told me the hotel caught fire so we also ran,” said Ak Shamsuddin, a refugee from Bangladesh who has been in the hotel for about a month with his wife and three-year-old daughter.

Shamsuddin said he feels the incident might be a result of anti-immigrant sentiment.

“It’s not fair,” he said.

READ MORE: Former UN human rights chief calls Canada’s handling of child refugees ‘inhumane’

Mario Calla, the executive director of Costi Immigrant Services, also alleged the incident may be tied to an individual with far-right beliefs.

“We had a series of trespassing intrusions at the hotel last week,” Calla said.

“It was very clear from the people who came in and did some videos on their iPhones and posted them that they’re from right-wing, white supremacist ideology. And so that seemed to attract more attention and then this arson happened. So it was very clearly related.”

READ MORE: Calls to end policy that blocks child refugees in Canada from reuniting with parents

Police said there are currently no indications the incidents are related or that the fire may have been started by a person with anti-immigrant beliefs, but they are continuing to investigate.

Police released two security images Friday hoping that someone would be able to identify the suspect.

Earlier in the day, police described the suspect as a woman, but they have since withdrawn that description and now say they are unsure of the suspect’s gender.

READ MORE: Police identify woman wanted for arson in East York fire

They are described as five-feet-six to five-feet-eight-inches tall with a medium build. At the time of the incident, they were wearing a black hooded jacket, dark pants, and blue running shoes.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 416-808-3200 or Crime Stoppers at 416-222-8477.

Police also released this security image of the suspect.

Handout / Toronto Police

– With files from Catherine McDonald

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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