Calgary police are trying to identify a man accused of berating a Muslim woman and her young children in what they believe was a hate-motivated incident.
Police said they were alerted to the incident by someone who witnessed the verbal attack just before noon on Tuesday.
The victim, who was wearing a Burka, was near 6 Avenue and 8 Street Southwest when she was accosted.
Police describe the man as being approximately 50 years old and wearing a turquoise-coloured shirt, and a white hat. No photos of him have been released.
Investigators ask witnesses to call the non-emergency line at 403-266-1234 or to contact Crime Stoppers anonymously.
Police are also asking the victim to come forward.
“We are committed to investigating all allegations of hate-motivated incidents,” Senior Const. Craig Collins said in a news release.
“We recognize the lasting emotional impact such offences have on those involved. Our priority is to ensure Calgarians from all communities feel safe in our city.”
Police said it’s crucial for witnesses to step in when unacceptable behaviour is witnessed and call officers for support.
“Hate-motivated crimes are recognizable crimes — like assault, theft, vandalism or any other crime — where the offender was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate that is based on one of nine personal characteristics of the victim,” a news release said.
“The characteristics include race, national or ethnic origin, language, (skin) colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.”
Calgary anti-racism advocate ‘very alarmed’ by apparent spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes
Speaking to Global News on Wednesday in reaction to the verbal attack, Saima Jamal from the Calgary Immigrant Support Society said she is concerned by the number of hate crimes happening across the nation.
“I don’t even have any words anymore left. I mean, this is very scary,” Jamal said.
“The amount of alarming levels of hate crime related to Muslims that are happening in our cities in Canada — I’m very alarmed.
“I am trying really hard now to look at the root causes of why this is happening and I am telling our community to stay alert, be ready, be very careful as you’re walking outside.”
“We’re not living in the same times anymore. We’re living in a completely different time.”
Jamal said she wasn’t surprised to hear the victim hadn’t reported the incident to police.
“Eighty per cent of hate crime doesn’t get reported. People are scared to report it. They feel ashamed. They feel like, ‘If I go to the police, would I get re-victimized again?’ There’s a lot of reasons why people don’t report, so I was really happy that this good Samaritan actually come up and reported it.
“Downtown is full of people. She was near a CTrain station. Why wasn’t anybody stopping it?
“At least somebody reported it — that’s a first step,” Jamal said. “But ideally, if you see somebody getting accosted like that, stop it. If you can’t stop it with your words, just stand between the victims and the perpetrator — create a wall of safety.
“Most of the time when this happens, we freeze. When we get attacked on racist incidents, we get so shocked that somebody can just say something like that. … Oftentimes, before words even come out, you just freeze.”
Jamal said hate-motivated incidents and hate crimes leave a mark on victims.
“It leaves a very lasting effect of pain and trauma.”