Beating of Hamilton cabbie racially motivated, daughter says

A brutally beaten Hamilton taxi driver was attacked because of his race, and the case should be treated as a hate crime, the Pakistani man's daughter says.

'Clearly there's a racial aspect to this, it's not just the money,' daughter says

A brutally beaten Hamilton taxi driver was attacked because of his race, and the case should be treated as a hate crime, the Pakistani man's daughter says.

Anwar Sajad was severely beaten by assailants around 11:30 p.m. July 16 in the west Mountain area of the city.

Zunaira Sajad, 22, told CBC News her father needs pelvic and leg surgery and cannot move. It's not clear how long his recovery will take — it could be months, or even years, she said.

"This is a racial crime," Sajad said. "We're immigrants. We're from Pakistan. We're Muslims. Clearly, there's a racial aspect to this. It's not just the money."She said police should investigate the attack as a hate crime, because "it could have been pre-planned."

The city's taxi union and other cabbies also believe there is a racist element to the attack and say racial slurs or comments are a common occurrence for city taxi drivers.

Const. Debbie McGreal-Dinning of the Hamilton Police Service told CBC News that there is no indication thus far that race or religion played a role in the attack.

Anwar Sajad was born in Pakistan, and had been driving a cab for six years at the time of the attack.  His daughter said that he has been the victim of verbal racial abuse before, but never a physical attack.

"I don't know the exact statistics, but I'm pretty sure the majority of the taxi drivers in Hamilton are South Asian, so maybe that's the reason [the assailants] called the cab," Zunaira Sajad said.

19-year-old charged with assault

"There's always customers that make comments.  It wasn't as extreme as this.  We never expected something to be this serious before, but clearly it is," she said.

Zunaira Sajad said that her mother feels that the attack could have been racially motivated as well.

On July 16, Anwar Sajad picked up three individuals from the corner of Upper Paradise and Mohawk and took them to a townhouse complex on Limeridge Rd.

Upon arriving at the destination, one of the passengers said that he couldn't find his debit card and went to retrieve it from his home.  Anwar Sajad was following the passenger when he was suddenly and violently attacked. 

The cabbie suffered a dislocated shoulder, a broken pelvis, and a broken leg. Police charged a 19-year-old a few days later.

Sajad says the person responsible should not be shown any leniency by the courts.

"The doctors told me that they've never seen a beating like this before.  Not one at the hands of one person.  It was serious.  It was intense."

She said the justice system must show her community that it is serious about punishing people who commit this kind of crime.

"If he is given only six months or a year," she continued, "it's like we're cultivating crime, we're promoting it."

Asif Abbas, friend of the Sajad family, speaks to Hamilton taxi drivers about workplace safety conditions. (CBC)

Sajad said that she has just completed a degree at McMaster University and had planned on attending medical school in the fall. Now those plans are in jeopardy.

"I was so excited to go to school, but guess what? Now I can't. I have to help my mom take care of my brothers and sisters.  Family comes first."

She has four younger siblings between the ages of four and 10.

"My family is just so devastated by all of this," she said.  "What kind of animal could do this?"

Racism a reality

Ejaz Butt, the president of the Ontario Taxi Workers Union, agrees with Zunaira Sajad. 

"I think she's right," he said. "The way the person was beaten certainly makes it look like a hate crime."

Butt said that racism directed toward cabbies has lessened over the years, but it's still a reality for immigrant drivers.

Asif Abbas, a Hamilton taxi driver and Sajad family friend, said that the South Asian cabbies in Hamilton and Toronto that he has spoken to over the past week feel the same. 

Abbas said that it is very common for taxi drivers to have racial abuse hurled at them.

"'You Muslim!  You Paki!  Go back to your own country!'  We hear this often," he said.

"We definitely support Zunaira's theory. Why beat someone so badly for $12? If someone wants to not pay their fare, the worst they do is push and run. We all suspect there is something more to this, that it's a hate crime."

The Ontario Taxi Workers Union had been planning a protest over the violent attack, but decided to shelve the idea after police arrested the suspects.

Abbas told the CBC that taxi drivers are under the threat of violence every day, but going forward with a demonstration at this time would be inappropriate.

"We're happy that the suspects have been arrested.  We're very appreciative of the police's effort in catching them."