Sikh community calls for hate-crime investigation after group assault of international student in Kelowna
Victim's supporters say attackers stole his turban and dragged him by the hair
People from Kelowna, B.C.'s Sikh community are calling for an attack on a young international student to be investigated as a hate crime after a group of people allegedly punched and kicked the student at a bus stop and tore off his turban.
The RCMP said it's in the early stages of its investigation and still trying to fully understand what happened.
The victim, Gagandeep Singh, is a young Sikh man from India who has been studying in Kelowna for the past year, according to people from the Sikh community that have rallied around him.
According to police, a group of young people, made up of both males and females, were on the same bus as Singh late Friday evening.
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"They were teasing the victim, and when the victim exited the bus, he was hit from behind and assaulted," said RCMP spokesperson Const. Mike Della-Paolera.
Police officers found Singh lying on the ground and being supported by friends that had already arrived. He was taken to hospital by ambulance with minor injuries, according to the RCMP.
Suspects not yet identified
As of Monday, police had not identified the suspects, according to Della-Paolera.
CBC News has not spoken to Singh, but members of the Sikh community who are supporting him are calling the incident a violent assault on the young man and his religion. They want the assault investigated as a hate crime.
"He's still in shock. He's in a lot of pain. He got hit on the mouth, so he can't properly speak, so the information is coming out slowly, said Aman Hundal, a member of the Gurdwara Guru Amardas Darbar Sikh Society in Kelowna.
The story Singh is recounting is that he was swarmed by a group of about 15-20 young males and a few women who kicked and punched him when he was on the ground, according to Hundal.
Attackers allegedly took victim's turban, pulled his hair
"They knocked his turban off, grabbed him by the hair and started dragging him around that area there by the bus stop," he said.
"After he was attacked, they took his turban ... we see this as a hate crime — they took that as a prize, and that is disrespectful too. This is an article of our faith."
The attack on the international student comes one year after a young Sikh woman from India was killed in Kelowna while working as a security guard at UBC's Okanagan campus.
Kelowna Coun. Mohini Singh said this latest incident has sent a shockwave through the Sikh community.
'This is not tolerable'
"Everybody sends their children to Canada thinking that they are going to a safe place, which it is. No parents are worried about their children," Singh said.
"This is not tolerable in Kelowna. This is not what we want to see here. This has to stop."
The RCMP said it's too early in the investigation to say if what happened was racially motivated.
"At this point, it's an assault. Obviously, there is a lot involved in this investigation and a lot of factors we need to consider, but right now, we need to gather more information and get a proper picture of what happened," said Della-Paolera.
Police are asking for anyone, including people from the suspect group, who may have witnessed this assault or has dash camera video or other recordings to contact the Kelowna RCMP.
With flies from Alya Ramadan