A 32-year-old woman has been charged following the second “hate-motivated incident” in south Edmonton in a week.
At around 10:45 a.m. Tuesday, police were called to the Southgate LRT Station platform after reports of an assault.
Police said a 23-year-old Black woman wearing a hijab entered the southeast doors of the LRT station when she was approached by a woman she didn’t know.
Without being provoked, police said the suspect is alleged to have attempted to hit the woman in the head with a shopping bag while yelling “racially-motivated obscenities at her.”
The victim avoided being struck, police said. She then ran past the woman, “as the accused continued to try and thwart her escape,” police said in a media release Wednesday morning.
An ETS Transit Peace Officer who was on scene was able to intervene and call police who took the suspect into custody.
Rene Ladouceur, 32, is charged with assault with a weapon and nine outstanding warrants for unrelated events.
Police said the EPS Hate Crimes and Violent Extremism Unit is also recommending that Section 718.2 of the Criminal Code of Canada be applied in this case, which would allow the courts to consider an increased sentence if there is evidence the offence was motivated by hatred.
“This type of behaviour is not accepted in our city and it’s not going to be tolerated,” Edmonton police chief Dale McFee said, adding it isn’t reflective of the city.
“These are a few people and a few incidents and we need to continue to limit those and prevent those, but this isn’t reflective of what we expect or what we generally see from the citizens of Edmonton.
“We’re seeing what’s playing out south of our borders with some of the civil and social unrest that’s going on there. Obviously we’re not immune to that and we’re seeing some of it play out here.”
In a post on Facebook Tuesday, the Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council said it is aware of the incident.
“We will be reaching out to the family,” the post read, asking for privacy for the woman.
“We request all members of the community to be more cognizant of your surroundings and to please be safe out there.”
AMPAC also thanked the Edmonton police for their prompt action on the incident.
“Our community has unfortunately been struck by another racist and Islamophobic attack on a young Black Muslim woman,” Al Rashid Mosque said in a statement.
Mosque leaders said they were “shocked and disappointed that our city has been disparaged by another ugly act of racially motivated violence.”
They also thanked the ETS Peace Officer who stepped in.
“While we are aware of groups operating in Alberta that espouse racist or Islamophobic tendencies, we will continue to counteract these sentiments of hate with ones of faith, strength and dialogue.
“We ask all citizens of this province to stand up to all manifestations of racism, violence and discrimination.”
This is the second “hate-motivated incident” to occur in the area in the span of a week. Edmonton police said Wednesday the two incidents are not connected.
Last Tuesday, two Somali women wearing hijabs were attacked in the Southgate Centre parking lot. Police called the Dec. 8 incident “hate-motivated” and said the Hate Crime and Violent Extremism Unit was working with investigators on the case.
“These individuals were targeted due to their race, therefore making this a hate-motivated crime,” Sgt. Gary Willits of the EPS Hate Crime and Violent Extremism Unit said last week.
Richard Bradley Stevens, 41, of Edmonton, was charged with two counts of assault and one count of mischief in relation to the Dec. 8 attack.
Adil Hasan, VP of civic engagement with AMPAC, said the organization has spoken with all three women who were victims in the attacks to offer them support. He said the community is shaken by the incidents.
“It’s a stark reminder for us that racism is real and racism has real-life consequences for people,” he said.
“It’s a troubling indication of a small group that’s becoming more vocal and people expressing abuse in a much more radical way.”
Hasan said AMPAC has spoken to the city in hopes of increasing the presence of peace officers around Southgate in hopes of making people feel safer. He said everyone has a role to play in combatting racism.
“If we see something, we need to stand up and make sure that our voices are heard. Actions like this are unacceptable and won’t be tolerated in our society.”
McFee said he doesn’t believe increasing the police presence in the area is what’s needed right now.
“I don’t think it’s fair to the Southgate neighbourhood to say this is attributed to them,” he said. “What is needed is for people to obviously be held accountable… it’s not acceptable.”
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson was saddened and heartbroken to hear of the two racially motivated attacks and wanted “to very publicly” tell the victims “we have your backs in this instance.”
“That these assailants targeted hijabi women of colour is unacceptable and I condemn these assaults in the strongest terms,” he said Wednesday morning.
“Both these attacks demonstrate that hate comes in various forms, and while there appear to be unrelated and distinct dimensions to these incidents, they are both outright unacceptable and downright unEdmontonian. Period.
“To the victims and their families, on behalf of my city council colleagues, we are thinking of you and we stand on your side. This is not the Edmonton that you know or should expect, but know that your safety matters to all of us on transit and in any public space.”
Iveson said security on buses and trains, along the LRT line and at transit stations has been increased in recent years following similar incidents. He said this security includes more surveillance cameras throughout the transit system.
“We have added security that we added a couple of years ago after previous incidents and concerns. And in this case fortunately, there was a peace officer on the scene at Southgate who was able to intervene,” he said.
The mayor said city council has made it clear that hatred in any form has no place in the community. He said his office has been in touch with leaders in the Somali and Muslim communities.
A number of provincial government officials issued statements about the attacks, saying they will not be tolerated.
“Those who commit crimes motivated by hate will be caught and charged,” Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Kaycee Madu said. “More importantly, the government of Alberta, on behalf of the people of this province, will make sure the justice system has the resources it needs to address those who commit these crimes.
“I am making it clear here and now that those who commit these types of heinous crimes will be treated with the seriousness they deserve.”
Alberta’s minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women said racism, religious intolerance, hatred and discrimination have no place in Alberta.
“Anyone who wants to play a part in building our future needs to embrace our pluralistic society and take an active role in creating a welcoming province for all,” Leela Sharon Aheer said.
“We must speak with raised voices and join together in condemning these acts of violence and hate. Racism, prejudice and intolerance have no place in Alberta,” added Minister of Community and Social Services Rajan Sawhney.
The Alberta Anti-Racism Advisory Council also issued a statement, stating it is “appalled, horrified and disheartened.”
“The council members extend comfort, consoling thoughts and care to the three victims: Edmontonians, Black women, who wore visible symbols of their faith, who were subjected to racist violence and vicious assaults, and who now must heal from this horrendous experience.”
Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley also condemned the attacks, saying she’s been in contact with community leaders to extend her deepest sympathies “as they grapple with these serious and deeply troubling incidents.”
“I’m very concerned that many Edmontonians are waking up wondering if they can feel truly safe in this city. I want you to know that all of us owe you a duty to protect your safety and instill your sense of security,” Notley said in a statement.
“Hate cannot be tolerated in our city. I want the people targeted by this hate to know they are loved, they are respected and they, like of all us, have a place.
“To all Edmontonians, I urge you to do everything you can to root out and call out racism in order to combat it in every one of its vile forms.”