Brossard community on edge after 2 residents of Asian descent victims of hit-and-runs

Longueuil police alleged the driver was in a state of mental crisis when he deliberately hit the victims. Both victims were of Asian descent, and that's worrisome for local Chinese residents who have felt tensions rise during pandemic, advocates say.

1 victim has life-threatening injuries while the other died in hospital Tuesday

Xixi Li of the Centre Sino-Québec de la Rive-Sud said, given the tensions around the pandemic's Chinese origin, aggression toward people of Asian descent is becoming all too common. (Nicolas Chentrier/CBC)

Members of the Chinese community on Montreal's South Shore are shaken by Monday's pair of hit-and-runs in Brossard that killed a pedestrian and left a cyclist fighting for his life.

Longueuil police alleged the driver was in a state of mental crisis and deliberately hit the victims with his Mazda 6 — one on Niagara Avenue and the other on Pelletier Boulevard a few minutes later.

Both victims were of Asian descent, and as tensions rose during the pandemic, so too have acts of aggression toward certain minority groups, said Xixi Li of the Centre Sino-Québec De La Rive-Sud in Brossard.

"Personally, I got emails that attack us, so it's easy to make this connection to what's happened with the recent actions against the Chinese community," said Li.

From harassing people online to assaults, East Asian people have been victimized all over the world — blamed for the coronavirus because it originated in China, Li said.

That makes local Chinese residents nervous, and they want to know if the victims were targeted because of their race, she said.

But a police investigation concluded that race was not a factor.

"We have been made aware that there were rumours going around that the two victims had been targeted," said Longueuil police spokesperson Const. Jean-Pierre Voutsinos.

"It was important for us to reach out and really deny that rumour."

The investigation found the suspect, 30-year-old Radoslav Guentchev, chose his alleged victims at random.

However, he declined to explain why investigators believe it was random, saying he cannot give out such details while the case is before the courts.

Nearly 12,000 residents of Brossard identified as Chinese in the 2016 census, out of a population of 85,721.

Most don't think it was random, advocate says

Xin Huang of Alliance of Quebec's Chinese Associations says he doesn't take comfort in the investigation's conclusion.

Huang says he's received many calls since the story began circulating in the media, and most Chinese people feel the attack was not at all random.

Xin Huang of Alliance of Quebec's Chinese Associations says the community is shocked by the incident. (CBC)

People are shocked to learn a new immigrant — a woman who was building a successful hair salon business in Brossard — was killed while out walking, Huang said.

"All the Chinese community worried about this and we are very concerned for the future," said Huang, speaking through an interpreter.

"Most Chinese do not think it was random."

But the fact that Guentchev was quickly arrested is comforting, Huang said.

Huiping Ding, 52, died from injuries sustained in a hit-and-run in Brossard. (Submitted by Aaron Xu)

A community in mourning

Guentchev is expected back in court next month. 

His charges include second-degree murder, aggravated assault, hit-and-run causing death, hit-and-run causing bodily harm, dangerous driving causing bodily harm and dangerous driving causing death.

Meanwhile, the community is mourning the loss of Huiping Ding, Li said. 

The Centre Sino-Québec de la Rive-Sud promotes the well-being of Asian communities in Quebec and helps new immigrants settle in the area.

Li said Ding, who immigrated to Canada two years ago, had quickly become a well-known hairdresser in Brossard.

She left behind her husband and her 26-year-old son.

"We feel very sad," said Li. "We feel very sorry for the loss of the family."

With files from Elias Abboud