According to data collected by Montreal police, the number of assaults on the Montreal metro has skyrocketed and the attacks are making some people nervous.
“It’s not easy for me,” said one frequent user outside the St. Laurent metro entrance where he was attacked in January. “I always feel as if someone is behind me about to attack.”
The man, who doesn’t want to be identified because he works with at-risk youth, said he was violently assaulted one night at the end of January as he exited the station.
Civil rights advocate Fo Niemi of the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations is helping him with the case.
“He just came out of the subway station and was suddenly punched in the face, on this side of head, by someone who he didn’t even know,” Niemi explained.
He said the victim was taken to hospital and kept under observation for several hours.
According to Niemi, thanks to surveillance cameras inside the metro the man was arrested days later.
“The officers said that this person assaulted other people, apparently some Black individuals as well in this area,” Niemi said.
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The victim who Niemi is helping is also Black, but he pointed out that it’s too soon to know if race was a factor in this assault.
According to the Crown prosecutor’s office, the suspect, who’s white, is facing 11 charges for multiple assaults against seven people.
Niemi wonders about security in the metro system.
“You don’t see enough police in the metro stations and that could be an issue to look at,” he argued, admitting that surveillance in the metro is complex.
Montreal police are also looking for potential victims after two separate incidents at the Viau metro station, allegedly committed by Paly Odimboleko-Okitaloshima, who was arrested Jan. 6.
Figures provided by the Montreal police suggest that the number of reported assaults per month in the metro so far this year is increasing.
According to the stats, in 2022 the average number of monthly assaults was 26 with the highest number of such crimes happening in March when there were 44.
In January this year, though, there were 54 assaults and in February, 53.
Montreal transit authority said in a statement that what happened to the St. Laurent metro victim is unfortunate and they hope that he’s doing well.
Spokesperson Philippe Déry insists that the metro safe.
“It is essential that all of our customers, regardless of their profile, age or ethnic group, feel safe in our facilities and in our vehicles,” he wrote.
“This is also why we invite victims to denounce and file a complaint, so that these incidents are listed and considered to allow the implementation of concerted intervention strategies. SPVM police officers are present in our metro stations to help ensure safety, with the support of some 150 special constables, who patrol our bus and metro networks.”
He added, “In the metro, an intercom located next to each door allows you to contact the train operator and there are emergency telephones at each end of the platform in all of our stations. It should also be remembered that the Montreal metro is entirely covered by a cellular network, so it is possible to quickly communicate with 911 if an emergency situation arises.”
The St. Laurent metro victim agrees that victims need to come forward, which is why he’s speaking out.
“It’s important to speak out,” he told Global News, saying that it’s a question of security.
He added that the message is specially important for racialized and marginalized people who might not have trust in the justice system.
The man who allegedly assaulted him is expected back in court April 12.