EDMONTON — The CEO of the National Council of Canadian Muslims says she’s worried that two separate attacks on Black Muslim women in Edmonton will affect their mental well-being.
“‘I think for folks who wear a hijab, they’re often walking around feeling like there is a target on their backs. And I think it’s terrifying that it can actually be true,” said Nadia Hasan, who added the city needs to do more to protect Muslim women in public spaces.
Police said Wednesday they had charged a woman after another woman wearing a hijab was assaulted at a light-rail transit station while her attacker shouted racial slurs at her.
It was the second attack near Southgate Mall in just over a week.
In Tuesday’s attack, the 23-year-old woman had just entered the transit station when she was approached by a woman who yelled at her and tried to hit her on the head with a shopping bag. The woman was able to run away and an Edmonton Transit Service peace officer called police.
Rene Ladouceur, 32, is charged with assault with a weapon. She also has nine outstanding warrants against her for unrelated events.
The Edmonton Police Service hate crimes unit said in a release that it is recommending that a section of the Criminal Code be applied “allowing the courts to consider increased sentencing when there is evidence the offence was motivated by hatred.”
The first attack on Dec. 8 happened as two women wearing hijabs were sitting in a car in the mall’s parking lot. Police say a man came up to the passenger side and began screaming. They say he eventually shattered the window by punching it.
The woman on the passenger side tried to run away, but the man chased her, pushed her to the ground and began hitting her. The second woman tried to help, but she was also pushed down.
Richard Bradley Stevens, 41, faces two counts of assaultand one count of mischief.
The Southgate neighbourhood is a big part of the Edmonton Muslim community, Hasan said.
“It’s certainly something that is disturbing, where you think that you’re safe, especially when you’re in public and you know everyone can see you.”
The council has contacted the two women who were attacked last week. They are still traumatized and have several injuries, Hasan said.
“Especially with the two women who were attacked, just the extent of the violence is extremely alarming, and indicates the need for us to do more to really ensure the security and safety of Muslim women, and particularly Black Muslim women in public spaces,” Hasan said.
A statement by the Alberta Anti-Racism Advisory Council said racists have no place in Alberta.
“Our great province was built by people from different cultures and ethnicities” it said. “The overwhelming majority of Albertans are welcoming and tolerant.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 16, 2020
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press