Edmonton events to welcome refugees won't change after pepper-spray attack

A pepper-spray attack on a crowd of refugees in Vancouver was an isolated incident that organizers in Edmonton say won’t change their plans to hold similar events here.

Local organizer sees no need to heighten security following attack in Vancouver

A large crowd attended a welcoming event at Edmonton’s City Hall on Friday. (CBC)

A pepper-spray attack on a crowd of refugees in Vancouver was an isolated incident that organizers in Edmonton say won't change their plans to hold similar events here.

"Unfortunately, cases like the one in Vancouver can often scare individuals," said Zeina Sleiman, who chairs the refugee sponsorship program for Edmonton's Islamic Family and Social Services Association. "And it's always good to think about the current measures in place, and what we can do to improve the safety of our communities."

Friday's attack happened about 10:30 p.m. after a "Welcome Night" event at the Muslim Association of Canada Centre in Vancouver. As refugees were waiting to board a bus, a suspect on a bicycle rode up and pepper sprayed the crowd.

Up to 30 men, women and children were treated for exposure to pepper spray by paramedics and firefighters. The attack drew quick condemnation from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson.

A welcoming event at Edmonton's City Hall went off without a hitch Friday evening.

A dinner to welcome about 100 Syrian refugees to the city will be held Saturday evening, and Sleiman said there are no immediate plans to upgrade security measures for such events.

"There might be discussion with other groups in planning these events … reflecting about 'Do we want to increase some sort of security or have further measures?' But that hasn't really been decided. And we also haven't felt the need to in Edmonton.

"While cases like the one in Vancouver are definitely isolated, I think it's important to reflect on the fact that refugees, at least in Edmonton, have been highly welcomed and protected by different levels of the community."

Sleiman said there hasn't been a major backlash against the federal government's plan to bring in 25,000 refugees.

"That, to me, is representative of the fact that most Canadians are welcoming and are opening their arms," she said. "I've personally seen that here in Edmonton."


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.