TORONTO — An 11-year-old girl’s claim that a scissors-wielding man approached her on the way to school and cut her hijab has turned out to be untrue, Toronto police said Monday as they closed their investigation into what was suspected to be a hate crime.
The alleged incident, which was reported on Friday, made international headlines and had drawn swift public condemnation from the prime minister, Ontario’s premier and Toronto’s mayor.
On Monday, police said their investigation concluded with no charges laid and no consequences for the girl.
“These allegations were extremely serious and not surprisingly, they received national and international attention,” police spokesman Mark Pugash said in an interview. “We investigated, we put together a significant amount of evidence and we came to the conclusion that what was described did not happen.”
Pugash said police don’t know how the story escalated. He stressed that it’s “very unusual” for someone to make such false allegations and said he hopes it will not discourage others from coming forward.
Canadian Muslim organizations expressed similar concerns, saying they feared others who experience hate crimes may be reluctant to report them out of worry that they will not be believed.
The executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, Ihsaan Gardee, said that while the group is relieved the girl wasn’t attacked, the fact that a false report was filed is “unsettling.” Such reports “not only affect the person making them, but may also affect persons who are in fact targeted by Islamophobic and hateful acts,” Gardee said.
Safwan Choudhry, spokesman for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Canada, said it would also be naive to ignore the risk of potential backlash against the girl and her family as well as other Muslims in light of Monday’s news.
“While this incident has proven not to be true, we did all witness that just a couple years ago a Muslim mother was brutally beaten up in Toronto while she was dropping her kids off at school,” he said. In that alleged incident in 2015, police said the woman was kicked, beaten and had her cellphone stolen by two males before fleeing to a nearby school.
There was a dip in police-reported hate crimes targeting Muslims in 2016, with 139 reported, according to the latest data from Statistics Canada. That followed what the agency called a “notable increase” in such crimes the previous year.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who strongly denounced the alleged hijab-cutting incident on Friday, told The Canadian Press on Monday he would not comment on the findings of the police investigation.
But he said there is nonetheless a pattern of hate crimes against religious minorities, particularly women, that needs to be addressed.