An Alberta cabinet minister and her daughter are speaking out after the 25-year-old said she was the victim of hate-fuelled violence in Calgary this week.
“As a mom, I was absolutely enraged that this happened to my child,” Calgary-born-and-raised Community and Social Services Minister Rajan Sawhney said.
“I grew up having to deal with all kinds of discrimination and racism and prejudice.
“I always thought, for my children, I could protect them from this sort of thing and that’s not really the case.”
Sawhney said her 25-year-old daughter Raman was attacked Friday in downtown Calgary — near her office in broad daylight.
“I was walking on Steven Avenue,” Raman said in an interview with Global News, explaining she had just grabbed coffee with a friend and was walking to work around 11 a.m.
“I believe I look like any other young woman walking across the street: I was wearing a summer dress and I had my Starbucks coffee.”
That’s when she said a man approached her.
“All of a sudden out of my peripheral vision I saw a man walking very fast, trying to get across the street and I thought he was just trying to cross,” she said, noting he appeared to be walking very aggressively.
“I took a couple of steps forward and he came, almost lunging at me, from behind a pillar and in that moment I was like, ‘This man is going to attack me.’
“I actually thought, ‘Is he going to kidnap me?’ I had no idea what was happening.”
The mother and daughter say Raman was grabbed, pushed, sworn at and chased as bystanders looked on.
“He grabbed my shoulder and pushed me and started swearing at me, saying a couple of racial slurs. I just was terrified,” Raman said, adding she ran down the street near some bystanders, but added that didn’t stop the man.
“I had an ice coffee, so I just threw it at him and ran across the street. He did follow me at that point — I was shaking and I just did my best,” Raman said.
She said she went inside a nearby nail salon and called police. Raman said she wasn’t physically hurt, but is shaken. Sawhney said she is shaken as well.
“As her mom, I was just floored that this happened,” the MLA for Calgary-North East said, noting it happened at a time when there have been frequent attacks on racialized women over the past year.
“We need to spark a really robust conversation provincewide and nationwide about the fact that this is happening. And I was really proud of my daughter that she said she wanted to speak up,” the minister said.
Sawhney recalled dealing with hateful behaviour when she was growing:
“I’ve lived with this kind of garbage my whole life. I grew up in northeast Calgary in the 1970s and I can recall so many instances where I was attacked as a teenager. I was pushed off my bike and ended up cracking my collarbone.”
Sawhney says she is now more motivated than ever to ensure that women, no matter where they come, can walk in public without fear of being attacked.
“I am outraged, saddened and disgusted at the same time, as I have been with every single attack on racialized women,” Sawhney said.
She told Global News even if the man wasn’t motivated by racism or hatred for women, the fact remains her daughter was still attacked in broad daylight.
Raman said she believes hate-motivated incidents happen a lot more often than people may think.
“Even with women of Caucasian descent, this is happening way too much and it breaks my heart. It’s absolutely horrible and I think we need to continue sharing our stories,” she said, noting with disappointment that bystanders did not try to help deescalate the situation: “No one really did anything to intervene.”
“I have a lot of girlfriends who live downtown and they’re scared to walk alone.”
Sawhney acknowledged it can be hard to know what to do in a situation like that.
“Part of the reason, I think, quite frankly — it’s scary. Because you don’t know what the situation could be and there are situations out there where a good Samaritan have been hurt,” she said.
“I was very disappointed — even somewhat devastated actually — that nobody really came to my daughter’s aid. I hope we can shift the needle on that conversation and teach people the importance of intervention.”
Premier Jason Kenney called it another deeply disturbing, hate-motivated attack on a young Alberta woman from a visible minority background.
“This is so profoundly wrong. Hate crimes like this are a vile attack not only on innocent individuals but on the cohesion (and) safety of our entire society,” the premier said in a tweet posted Friday night.
“We must all work together to stamp out this hate. We can’t be disinterested bystanders when people are assaulted in our communities, in broad daylight.”
The Calgary Police Service was not available for comment.