An Okanagan MP has taken the recent assault of a Kelowna, B.C., international student to Ottawa, calling the attackers of the 21-year-old “thugs” and “lowlifes.”
Gagandeep Singh boarded a bus on Highway 97, headed into Rutland, Friday night when he ran into a dozen or more young people who were causing a disturbance. They were tossing around a wig, which later hit him and, according to Singh’s friends, he asked them to stop. When he later got off the bus, they followed and jumped him.
“They severely beat him but that wasn’t enough for these low lives. They removed his turban and dragged him on the street by his hair. This was a hate crime committed by cowards, who should be punished severely. Everyone here will agree that the senseless act of race-based violence is unacceptable, but we need to do more,” Central Okanagan MP Dan Albas said.
“These cowards thought they could do whatever they wanted because they didn’t think anyone would stop them. We need to ensure that anyone who walks our streets can do so without fear of violence.”
Albas said that this violence is symptomatic of a weakened legal system.
“We must make meaningful changes to protect the public and make everyone feel safe on their streets again,” he said.
“If people expect nothing more than a slap on the wrist, it’s part of the problem. Let’s all hope that the student recovers fully. His attackers are caught and face real consequences for the pain and additional indignity they imposed on this man.”
Kelowna Mayor Tom Dyas also spoke out about the incident Sunday morning on Twitter.
“Gagandeep, I’m so sorry this happened to you, I’m hoping for your quick recovery. Kelowna needs to do better to be safe, accepting and respectful for everyone,” read the post.
Singh, who’s only been in Canada for a month, suffered injuries to his chest, mouth, arms and legs in the attack.
A fundraiser has been set up to alleviate some of the costs for medical care, rent and tuition that will continue to mount while he is unable to work.
As of Monday afternoon, that fundraiser had gained more than $15,000 in donations.
While Albas categorized the assault as a hate crime, RCMP officers are too early in their investigative process to say the same.
“Any assault on any individual in our community is of great concern to the RCMP and we’re going to do everything we can to investigate to its fullest and bring charges if necessary,” said Const. Mike Della-Paolera of the Kelowna RCMP.
Della-Paolera said investigators are out gathering all the surveillance they can and are looking for witnesses.
“If anybody out there has any information or has dashcam (footage) for 10:30 p.m. around the intersection of Highway 97 north and McCurdy Road, please come to the RCMP, we would like to talk to you and see if any of your evidence is something that we can use to move this investigation forward,” he said.