Edmonton police investigating attack on Black Muslim woman wearing a hijab
WARNING: This story contains details of a violent assault
Edmonton police are investigating a report that a Somali Canadian woman who was wearing a hijab was attacked Friday night, the latest in a series of attacks on Black and racialized Muslim women in recent months.
Jibril Ibrahim, president of the Somali Canadian Cultural Society, said the Edmonton woman in her 50s was grabbed by her neck and pushed down to the sidewalk by an unknown person while she was out for a walk near Edmonton's Northmount neighbourhood at about 9 p.m.
"She was just walking on this street in the evening just to get a little bit of fresh air," Ibrahim said Sunday. "And all of a sudden, someone just grabbed her by the neck and she was thrown on the ground."
He said her face was bloodied, some of her teeth are loose and she spent Friday night in hospital. The woman was wearing a head covering, said Ibrahim, who is also a close family friend. He received a first-hand account of the attack from the woman when the family phoned him in the middle of the night.
The Edmonton Police Service said the case is being investigated. The hate crimes and violent extremism unit has been made aware of this latest incident, but is not currently handling the case, said spokesperson Carolin Maran in an email.
The woman received treatment for non-life-threatening injuries at a local medical centre and then reported the incident to police, Maran said.
The woman is now resting at home, but she is scared to go out, and traumatized by the incident, he said. She wasn't up to being interviewed on Sunday, and was frightened to appear on camera, Ibrahim added.
"The whole family is still reeling from the incident," he said.
Spate of attacks
At least six hate-motivated attacks on Black and racialized Muslim women have happened in Edmonton in recent months.
The first was reported in December, after a man attacked two Somali women wearing hijabs outside Southgate mall.
Since then, a number of other victims have reported being pushed, beaten, screamed at and in some cases their lives were threatened.
In March, a 44-year-old man was charged with uttering threats and assault in connection with three "hate-motivated" attacks in south Edmonton on women, two of whom were wearing head coverings.
The incidents, as well as the deaths of four members of a Muslim family in London, Ont., earlier this month, have many Canadian Muslims on edge. In the London case, the family was run down by a pickup truck in what police have said was a hate-motivated attack.
Ibrahim said the most recent victim has been in Canada for 30 years, and while she's been harassed in shops and other places, she's never experienced such violence.
Ibrahim is calling for the bar for hate crimes to be lowered.
"So far, it looks like more or less, our leadership from the prime minister to the mayor, they're hoping that these people will go away. But it doesn't work that way," he said.
"Hate doesn't start with killing. It starts with harassment. It starts with looking at people in a certain way, making them feel uncomfortable," Ibrahim said. "We need to look into those definitions and come up with solutions."
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced on Friday that groups that experience hate crimes will soon be able to apply for grants to pay for security upgrades.
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.
With files from Emily Pasiuk and the Canadian Press