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Edmonton’s Somali community calls on politicians to strongly condemn attack on two women

Members of Edmonton’s Somali community are calling on Premier Jason Kenney and Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson to more forcefully condemn the hate-motivated attack on two women, wearing hijabs, in a south Edmonton mall parking lot earlier this week.

Both Kenney and Iveson condemned the attack on Twitter but Jibril Ibrahim, president of the Somali Canadian Cultural Society, said leaders need to do more.

“There is a failure on the leadership side to come out in public and make a statement,” Ibrahim said, adding that the sorts of people who might perpetrate this kind of hate crime “might take this as licence to do whatever they want to.”

Edmonton Police say that at about 3:40 p.m. on Tuesday, patrol officers responded to an assault in the parking lot at the Southgate Centre Mall.
A man approached two women wearing hijabs sitting in their vehicle and began yelling racially motivated obscenities at them.

Witnesses told police the man punched the passenger-side window, shattering the glass.

Fearing for her safety, the passenger ran from the vehicle, the man chased her, pushed her to the ground and began assaulting her.

The second woman tried to help and was also shoved to the ground. Several bystanders intervened to stop the attack.

Premier, mayor issue statements

Neither Kenney nor Iveson were available for an interview late Friday afternoon.

In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for Kenney said he “of course strongly condemns this heinous attack and will continue to speak out against all forms of racism at every possible opportunity — as he has consistently done.”
Iveson, in an emailed statement from a spokesperson, said he “unequivocally condemns the attack.
“As he stated on social media, his thoughts are with these women and racialized communities in Edmonton who hear/witness/see incidents like this and are rightly concerned for their safety,” the statement said.

“Mayor Iveson maintains that racist hatred has no place in Edmonton and he hopes these women know that city council is committed to fighting against systemic prejudice and discrimination.”

Police charged 41-year-old Richard Bradley Stevens with two counts of assault and one count of mischief.

Police will use a section of the Criminal Code related to hate crimes that would allow the courts to consider increased sentencing if the accused is convicted.

The Somali society issued the call for stronger condemnation following an online community meeting Friday that included members of the attacked women’s family.

Ibrahim said the women have requested privacy but he said they were severely traumatized by the attack. The community is supporting them and helping them to gain access to victims services.

He said the attack has affected the entire community because it occurred in broad daylight and targeted them because of their skin colour, their culture, their religion and because they are women.

Community members, he said, are already anxious about losing their jobs due to economic restraints related to COVID-19.

“On top of that, now they have to look over their shoulder.”

Family statement

In an emailed statement sent Friday night from Fix and Smith Law Office attributed to the family of the victims of the attack, the family said they wished to express gratitude for the outpouring of concerns and well wishes.

The family stated it would like privacy for the time being, but a representative will provide a further statement “in the near future.”

“The family asks that members of the public continue to keep them in their prayers as they attempt to process the breadth of these tragic circumstances,” said the statement.

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