Edmonton police may release call made by Black Muslim woman targeted in racist attack

Edmonton's police chief says his department is considering releasing the recording of a call under dispute made by the latest Black Muslim woman targeted in a racist attack.

Police will investigate and lay necessary charges, Chief Dale McFee says

Edmonton police chief Dale McFee vowed police would do everything within their power to investigate and lay the appropriate charges in the most recent attack on a Black Muslim woman. (John Shypitka/CBC)

The Edmonton Police Service is considering releasing the recording of a call under dispute made by the latest Black Muslim woman to be targeted in a racist attack, Chief Dale McFee says.

The woman has said she was discouraged from filing an official report after the Feb. 17 incident and felt the police response was motivated by her race and religion.

But after an audit of the call, police said the evaluator's conduct was "professional and empathetic."

"We certainly don't want to further victimize this individual," McFee told reporters at a news conference Tuesday, when asked by CBC if police would release the tape.

"We need to make sure that we're doing that from a position that we're not going to create further stress or further harm to the individual."

Police are working with the National Council of Canadian Muslims and speaking with the woman's legal counsel "to see just how we can address that and how we can better inform the public," McFee said.

Messaging issues

It's one of the issues around race and messaging for which Edmonton police are coming under fire after a series of racist attacks on Black Muslim women, and seemingly contradictory comments about a rally where protesters carried symbolically-racist tiki torches. 

While police initially characterized the protest, attended by known hate groups like the Soldiers of Odin and Urban Infidels, as mostly peaceful, McFee later tweeted that four officers were injured. 

"Overall it was peaceful," McFee said Tuesday of the rally that was monitored by the department's hate crimes unit.

"But we did have one particular incident with an individual that thought he would take a few punches to the heads of our officers, and that obviously had some minor injuries associated," he said.

"If we can identify that individual that did that, that individual will be held accountable." 

McFee condemned the use of torches and pledged to continue investigating but said actions by protesters had not met the legal threshold to lay charges.

"There's no place for that," said McFee about the torches. "But that said, there's a difference between the legal threshold in relation to what is a hate crime.

"From what I could see on there, they had no idea why they were even carrying those torches. That doesn't mean the organizers didn't think differently."

'Whatever we have to do to make it safer'

Regarding the attacks on Black Muslim women that have left many Edmontonians feeling unsafe, McFee said police are regularly in touch with the victims.

"Our primary interest is the safety of those individuals," McFee said. 

"We need to make sure that we do everything within our power to investigate those appropriately and lay the necessary charges … whether some of these end up being a hate crime, as per se, or if it just ends up being a crime, that we hold people accountable, whatever we have to do to make it safer for the individuals."

McFee wrapped up the news conference by sharing an anecdote about a 12-year-old boy who was recently called a "little racist bitch" because his father was a police officer. He said he was proud of his officers who were "taking it on the chin."

"All this stuff is unacceptable and it's happening at various different levels in our community. The only way that we're going to solve this is as a community, we come together," he said.

"We admit to some of the mistakes that we've all made and we have to start to figure a path forward. But that path isn't going to get easier when 90 per cent of our focus is on just blaming each other."

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.