A 43-year old man was sentenced to 16 months behind bars and two years’ probation for assaulting a Muslim mother and daughter wearing hijabs outside Southgate Centre in December 2020.
Richard Bradley Stevens previously pleaded guilty to two counts of assault and one count of mischief.
In her decision Friday, Judge Ferne LeReverend said the attack was racially motivated.
Stevens only stopped attacking the first woman to chase away the other woman, she said.
The judge also pointed out that “copy cat” attacks occurred after this one and that it sparked fear across Canada in the Muslim community.
LeReverend said Stevens doesn’t understand the harm he caused and then used drugs and alcohol as an excuse for his actions.
Stevens’ sentence also states he cannot communicate with the victims and must stay at least two blocks away from them at all times.
The judge also ruled Stevens must complete a multicultural awareness program, psychological counselling, and drug and alcohol counselling. He can’t possess or consume drugs or alcohol and must live at an approved residence.
After the incident, the women told police they were sitting in a car in the Southgate Centre parking lot in December when a man came up to the passenger side and began yelling racial slurs at them.
They said the man shattered a car window, then knocked one of them to the ground and started assaulting her.
Stevens was later charged and an arrest warrant was issued for him after he failed to appear in court.
The victims’ names are protected under a publication ban.
Court heard Stevens has a history of mental illness, childhood trauma and suffers from a psychotic disorder. The court heard that his substance abuse made his mental health issues worse and he has a history of not taking his medication.
Stevens also has a lengthy criminal history and has been on probation numerous times. Court heard he’s shown racial intolerance on other occasions — even to police.
Crown prosecutors were initially seeking a total sentence of 13 months in jail and the defence asked for an 18- to 24-month conditional sentence followed by a year of probation.
According to victim impact statements, one of the women is a mother of 10 who is now constantly afraid for her safety. Court heard that the assault destroyed her sense of security and caused psychological wounds. She also suffered physical wounds and was bed-ridden for six months with an injured leg.
The daughter suffered psychological and physical injuries, court heard. Victim impact statements outlined how she relives the terror of seeing her mother attacked, and is afraid to be outside alone. She had to take three months off work and needed physiotherapy. Any similar attacks that followed left her in a state of fear, court heard.
Dalal Souraya, a lawyer with the National Council of Canadian Muslims, provided a statement on behalf of the victims.
“There’s no doubt that this heinous Islamophobic attack left a tremendous amount of pain on Edmonton, and Alberta, and especially, in particular on Black Muslim women, those who wear hijab and other visible and vulnerable Muslims.
“Their voices and the voices of those who are attacked were reflected in today’s decision,” Souraya said.
“While today was an important day, and was a significant precedent-setting judgement, nothing can undo the harm this family and community has suffered.”
She added that the group will have more to say in the coming days about a civil suit connected to this incident.
Hate crime researcher Irfan Chaudhry says the fact that jail time was considered as the default starting point for sentencing is important.
“I think it does send a significant starting point… message in terms of how we want to really adequately address these hate-motivated attacks.
“When you have the jail time and then probation versus just probation alone, I think that does create a layer of accountability.”
Chaudhry is also the director of the office of human rights, diversity and equity at MacEwan University. He said this case could set precedent – or at least some parameters – for future cases involving racially motivated crimes.
He added that legal changes are being made to consider hate motivation as a contributing factor to the act when determining sentences.
“We’re at a shift now where a slap on the wrist, so to speak, (isn’t) going to cut it, because… the impacts of hate have that ripple effect. It impacts the individual who’s targeted but it also impacts the communities that are directly associated with that individual impacted. And then more broadly, if you look at this example, it impacts other faith-based groups, both here but also across Canada, and I think that’s often times, where some of these sentencing pieces gets missed.”
Chaudhry expects the way this attack was followed by other “copycat” assaults may have also been considered.
“In Edmonton, and somewhat in Calgary as well, it was eight over the span of five months where we saw a specific demographic being targeted.
“Being mindful of how it impacts communities as a whole, and how we need to, in general, up our response to these types of hate-motivated acts of violence – that, to me, is the main focus of how it should be impacting down the road.”