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Edmonton police lay charges in 6 assaults believed to be motivated by hate

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Edmonton police are addressing a substantial increase in hate-motivated crimes in the city. Four people have now been charged after several recent and unconnected cases. Chris Chacon reports – May 4, 2022

Four people have been charged in relation to six assaults in Edmonton over the past several months, all of which police believe were motivated by hate.

The charges come as police say hate-motivated crimes are up in Edmonton this year. Between January and March this year, police said 23 hate-motivated crimes were reported. That’s compared to 13 during the same period last year.

“With the increase in numbers, our plan is to facilitate more awareness when possible, as we want citizens to know that this behaviour will not be tolerated,” said Sgt. Gary Willits, with the hate crimes unit.

“It is critically important that the public report any and all instances of hate, and we are very thankful to those who came forward as witnesses in these files. We want our diverse communities to know they are valued, and we take these reports very seriously.”

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Read more: Racism suspected in random, violent attack on man in central Edmonton: police

The first assault happened at about 7:15 p.m. on Feb. 28 at the Southgate LRT station. Police said a South Asian man wearing a turban was waiting on the LRT platform when he was approached by an unknown man.

Police said the accused spat on the victim and made racial comments toward him. The victim attempted to follow the suspect as he called police, at which time the accused came toward the man and threatened to punch him, police said in a news release Wednesday.

Andrew Antonius Debrouwer, 34, of Edmonton, is charged in this case with two counts of assault.

Read more: Charges laid in alleged racist attack on woman outside west Edmonton coffee shop

A 17-year-old youth, who cannot be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, was charged after an incident that occurred at a north Edmonton drive-thru at about 4 a.m. on March 1.

Police allege the youth made racial comments and spat on a Black and a Southeast Asian staff member. The youth is charged with two counts of assault.

Read more: Man charged after another ‘hate-motivated incident’ in Edmonton: police

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The next incident happened in the McCauley area at about 4:40 p.m. on April 2. Police said a Black woman and a white man were walking with their infant in a stroller when they were approached by a man who allegedly began uttering racial slurs at them. Eventually, police said the accused pointed a gun at the couple.

The family was able to get away, but saw the accused driving around the neighbourhood. The Edmonton Police Service tactical unit was brought in and arrested the man without incident. Police said they searched a residence where a replica firearm was found.

A 39-year-old man was charged in this incident with two counts each of criminal harassment, assault with a weapon, uttering threats, using an imitation firearm while committing an indicatable offence, as well as one count of possessing an offensive weapon dangerous to the public.

Police said the man has since died and his name will not be released.

Click to play video: 'Man known to police charged after 3 ‘hate-motivated’ attacks on women in Edmonton' Man known to police charged after 3 ‘hate-motivated’ attacks on women in Edmonton
Man known to police charged after 3 ‘hate-motivated’ attacks on women in Edmonton – Mar 8, 2021

The next three incidents occurred between April 14 and April 17, and police have charged one person in connection with all three assaults.

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Just before 7:40 p.m. on April 14, police said a Black man was walking in the 118 Avenue area when he was approached by an unknown man. The accused allegedly walked up to the man, swore at him, punched him and then left the area.

At about 1:50 p.m. on April 17, a Black man was walking in the same area when police said the accused pushed the man to ground, and punched and kicked him. Passersby stopped their vehicles and chased away the accused, police said.

Later that day, around 4:30 p.m., police said the accused approached another Black man in the same area and struck him on the head with a pipe. The accused was arrested a short distance away.

Gabriel Dale Cardinal, 46, is charged in relation to all three incidents. He was charged with two counts of assault, assault with a weapon, criminal harassment, possession of an offensive weapon and one breach of condition.

Police said the victims in all of these incidents have been offered support through the EPS crime and trauma-informed support services.

The EPS said in each of the instances, the hate crimes and violent extremism unit is recommending Section 718.2 of the Criminal Code of Canada be applied.

This allows the courts to consider increased sentencing when there is evidence the offence was motivated by hatred.

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When it comes to the increase of hate crimes in Edmonton, Willits said it’s a combination of more incidents and more people coming forward.

“We are seeing an increase in reporting. We’re doing more in the area of outreach in the communities. It’s been a goal of ours to let communities know they’re valued and the importance of reporting,” he explained.

“But I do have to say there’s an increase in violence across the city and so I think it’s a bit of both.”

As for why it’s happening, that’s the more difficult question to answer.

“It’s the million dollar question. We’re seeing it city-wide with all areas of the service being impacted,” Willits said. “It’s very concerning but I’m not able to pin it. We’re obviously keeping our minds open to possible solutions. That’s why we try to work closely with our communities to see if they’re identifying potential causes as well. At this point it’s kind of inconclusive for us.”

He said police speak with the accused in cases like this and find their motivations are wide-ranging.

“We try to assess every individual that we deal with. We want to know their background, if they’re connected to any group, what are their ideologies? Is this a coordinated event? Are they a lone actor? What was their motivation?

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“Some have been very blunt, they do have racial beliefs and they’re hurting and they’re upset for maybe trauma they’ve encountered themselves and they’re acting out. Some refuse to comment, and then we have some individuals that don’t even recall the situation because perhaps at the time of the event there may be a contributing factor such as … dependency issues or perhaps mental health.”

Read more: Edmonton police consult Hate Crime unit on northwest road rage altercation

The EPS said it recognizes hate-motivated crimes not only hurt the victims, but they have an impact on larger communities who may feel unsafe and not trust others.

“We have communities out there living in fear and these are people not attending their places of worship, not wearing religious clothing, people not leaving their homes,” Willits said. “We’re trying to increase the sense of security, we need to raise the awareness for our communities because our communities is what’s going to make the difference.

“The solution for this is not jail. I understand for community safety we need to hold people accountable and at times people do need to be secured, but the bigger picture is how do we solve this on a global picture? Because we have several individuals out there hurting and we’re trying to find the solution to how we can get them back contributing to society.”

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Anyone affected by a hate crime can connect with the EPS Crime and trauma-informed support services by email or by phoning 780-421-2217.

Anyone who is the victim of a hate crime is asked to report it to police at 911 if it’s an emergency, or by calling 780-423-4567. Anonymous information can be reported through Crime Stoppers.

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