RCMP are looking for a suspect after they say a masked man attacked two young women wearing hijabs, knocking one unconscious and assaulting the second at knifepoint, in a daytime attack in St. Albert, Alta.
The incident, which happened around 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, is being investigated as a hate-motivated crime, St. Albert RCMP said Thursday.
The women were walking along a gravel pathway near Alderwood Park, bordering Edmonton’s northwest.
A white man — wearing a bandana and yelling racist remarks — approached them, RCMP said in a news release.
He grabbed one woman by her hijab and pushed her to the ground, knocking her unconscious.
He then pulled out a knife and knocked down the second woman, holding the knife to her throat while continuing to yell racial slurs at both women.
The suspect ran off after the attack, police said.
The first woman regained consciousness and was transported to hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The second woman sustained minor injuries but was not taken to hospital, RCMP said.
Officers and police dogs searched the area for the suspect but did not find him.
The investigation is ongoing. St. Albert RCMP are working with the Edmonton Police Service.
Police described the suspect as a white man about 50 years old, around six feet tall, with an average build and broad shoulders.
He had short, light-coloured hair and light-coloured eyes. He was wearing dark blue jeans, a navy shirt and a red and white bandana with graffiti lettering.
The attack comes just weeks after a Muslim family was run down and killed in London, Ont., prompting national calls for action to address anti-Muslim hate. Nathaniel Veltman faces four first-degree murder charges, one attempted murder charge and associated terror charges.
A number of recent attacks targeting Muslim women have been reported in Edmonton, including earlier this month when a Somali Canadian woman wearing a hijab was reportedly grabbed by the neck and pushed to the sidewalk.
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson and St. Albert Mayor Cathy Heron both called Thursday for strengthened hate laws in Canada.
“This attack is unacceptable,” Iveson said. “It appears our Muslim community, in particular, is being targeted yet again in this way. Our Muslim neighbours, friends and family deserve to feel safe and welcome in their communities. I’m heartbroken that many of them are not feeling safe right now.
“The City of Edmonton supports calls to strengthen hate laws in Canada and will continue to find ways we can work with our partners to stop hate attacks.”
Heron said on Twitter that she is “infuriated” by the attack and that “the roar of outrage needs to be loud.”