British Columbia

Victim of hateful verbal attack wants others to speak out when they witness racism

Vancouver’s Shafira Vidyamaharani says she wants her experience at a bus stop to empower people to speak up about racism when they see it happening. She recorded a man making racist, threatening and hateful remarks to her on Friday.

Shafira Vidyamaharani recorded a man making racist, threatening and hateful remarks to her on Friday

Shafira Vidyamaharani says she wishes a bystander would have engaged with her when a man said racist, threatening and hateful things to her at a bus stop in Vancouver on June 11, 2021. (Doug Kerr/CBC News)

Vancouver police are investigating after a 22-year-old Vancouver woman says she was left shaken by a man who allegedly made racist, threatening and hateful comments to her at a bus stop on Friday.

Shafira Vidyamaharani, who is Muslim and wears a hijab, wants the encounter to empower people to speak out about racism when they see it happening.

"I wished I had that support when the incident happened, while I was being threatened, while I was being harassed," she said Sunday.

Vidyamaharani recorded part of the hateful encounter, which she said lasted 10 minutes, on her phone. 

Vancouver police said Monday in an email to CBC that they applaud the young woman for coming forward so they could launch a timely investigation. Police said the incident happened at a bus stop on Main Street at around 11 a.m. Friday. So far no arrests have been made. The suspect's identity remains unknown, police said.

The incident follows the murders of four Muslim people in London, Ontario, who police say were targeted and run down by a driver because of their faith.

That violence has left many Canadians troubled by the level of racism in this country. People of colour, as well as those who wear clothing that identifies their religion or culture, say they feel unsafe being out in public.

The encounter involving Vidyamaharani happened Friday at a bus stop at Main Street and East 49th Avenue while she was on her way to work.

She said a white man approached her and began asking her where she was from and what she was wearing on her head. She did not answer him and moved to stand with the other people waiting at the bus stop.

She said the man continued to aggressively talk to her, using racist and threatening language. She pulled out her cellphone and recorded the last 90 seconds of the encounter.

Vancouver woman records man who threatened her at a bus stop

CBC News BC

2 months ago
1:19
Shafira Vidyamaharani recorded a man making racist, hateful remarks to her at a bus stop. She hopes sharing her experience will encourage people to speak out against racism when they see it happening. 1:19

Vidyamaharani said she has experienced racism before, but this encounter left her upset because she was genuinely worried the man was going to hit her.

"I think if there weren't a lot of people around, the circumstances would have been a lot different," she said. "I'm usually like a freezer in this situation. I can't believe I walked away with the footage and was unharmed as well."

The verbal attack came to an end when a bus came and he got on it, while she stayed behind to wait for the next bus.

'I was pretty shaken'

After the man had gone, other people at the bus stop asked her if she was OK, which she appreciated, but said she would have preferred someone to engage with her while the abuse was happening.

"It was kind of unfortunate and I was pretty shaken," she said.

She doesn't want people to put themselves in unsafe situations when they see racism happening, but says someone could have spoken with her during the encounter to take attention away from the man and his comments.

"Just even deflecting the tension away," she said.

'Unacceptable'

Vidyamaharani said she is unsettled that her experience came so soon after the murders of the Muslim family in London, and is worried that tragic event has emboldened some people to target people of colour. 

Haroon Khan, a trustee at the Al Jamia Masjid mosque in Vancouver, said Vidyamaharani's experience is too common for many Muslims.

"There are many, many microaggressions, outward attacks, threats of violence, intimidation and abuse," he said.

Khan says awareness is needed to combat racism in Canada and agrees with Vidyamaharani that people should try to find a way to support victims if they see racist attacks happening.

"It's unacceptable to any and all of us," he said. "Those women, they're your sisters, they're our sisters and as part of our family we have to look out for them."

With files from Joel Ballard

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