A Muslim woman was knocked unconscious on a St. Albert pathway Wednesday after she and her sister were attacked by a knife-wielding man uttering racial slurs, police say.
Investigators are seeking the public’s help identifying the suspect, who remains at large. It is the latest attack in the Edmonton area which police believe was motivated by hatred toward Muslims.
On Thursday, St. Albert RCMP revealed two sisters wearing hijabs were attacked Wednesday afternoon while walking on a pathway bordering Edmonton near Alderwood Park.
At around 12:35 p.m., a stranger wearing a bandana over his face approached yelling racial slurs. The man grabbed one of the women by the hijab and pushed her to the ground, knocking her unconscious.
The man then produced a knife, knocked the second woman to the ground and pressed the blade to her throat, threatening them and using racial slurs.
The man then ran away. St. Albert RCMP called in a dog team but were unable to locate the man.
Izdahar Gaib said her daughters, who are in their 20s, were the ones attacked. They did not wish to be named.
Her eldest daughter was struck in the face and hit her head against a tree, which knocked her unconscious, she said. The younger daughter tried to call police but the attacker knocked the phone from her hands.
“My daughters are traumatized and do not feel safe whatsoever to step foot outside again and have even begged me not to go out either due to the fear that was planted in them,” Gaib said in a text message.
RCMP are working with Edmonton city police to investigate the crime, which they believe was hate-motivated.
“Alberta RCMP work collaboratively with other policing agencies, regardless of jurisdiction, as we stand together against hate and extremism,” RCMP Staff Sgt. Tony Dickens said in the news release.
The first woman regained consciousness and was treated in hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The second woman suffered minor injuries and was treated on scene.
The attacker is described as a white male, approximately six feet tall with an average build and broad shoulders. He is believed to be around 50 years old with 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. Anyone with information is asked to contact the St. Albert RCMP non-emergency line.
‘We need to do some soul searching’
REACH Edmonton, a community safety group, confirmed the sisters work for or volunteer with the organization.
Helen Rusich, a REACH project manager, said the family recently moved to Edmonton from Quebec.
“These young women have dedicated their time and energy to creating a more equitable city for all Edmontonians, by working in the community on issues including anti-racism and civil rights,” she said in an email.
She added the family was harassed online after speaking publicly about a similar attack a year ago.
“We obviously condemn these actions and our hearts are with this family as they navigate yet another traumatizing experience like this.”
“As Edmontonians, we need to do some soul searching and think about why these kinds of things keep happening in our city. We don’t want to believe that this is who we are as a city, and yet these attacks continue to happen.”
Edmonton city police have laid charges in seven allegedly hate-motivated assaults on Black and Muslim Edmontonians since December 2020.
Two of the cases have made it through the courts, with one — the case of Joseph Dennis Gladue — resulting in a 180-day jail sentence but no mention of hate as a motivation.
On Monday, arrest warrants were issued for Andrew Timothy Brown, the man accused in an April road-rage incident which police say may have been racially motivated. Brown — who faces assault and dangerous driving charges — failed to attend court Monday.
Rene Ladouceur, who was accused of attacking a Muslim woman with a shopping bag at an LRT station, pleaded guilty to a variety of charges earlier this month, though the charge in the alleged hate-motivated assault was withdrawn by the Crown.
Three of the defendants in the Edmonton cases are homeless or of no fixed address, court records show.
In a statement, Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson called the assaults “unacceptable.”
“It appears our Muslim community, in particular, is being targeted yet again in this way,” he said. “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.”
He said the city “supports calls to strengthen hate laws in Canada.”