Hate crime unit investigating attack on 2 Muslim girls in Calgary park
CALGARY -- A young Muslim girl was punched, kicked and had her religious head covering pulled in what police are investigating as a possible hate crime in Calgary's Prince's Island Park.
The incident happened Sunday at around 1:30 p.m. as two girls, both under the age of 16, were walking along the pathway near the Bow River.
According to police, a 28-year-old woman confronted them with a verbal attack.
Police say the women tried to walk away as racial slurs were hurled at them, but the woman persisted and the attack escalated to physical violence.
One woman was pushed, punched in the face, kicked in the stomach and had her hijab — a headscarf worn by Muslim women — torn off. The second victim wasn't physically assaulted.
"It's just ... sadness. The community doesn't get shocked anymore," said Dr. Mukarram Zaidi with the Canadian Muslim Research Think Tank.
"When I speak to women and young girls, they're having these incidents on a daily basis."
Zaidi also points to three incidents in Edmonton this year in which women were harassed and assaulted in what police called "hate-motivated" attacks. A man was charged earlier this month.
The incident in Prince's Island Park was stopped when an innocent bystander and two men, believed to be associated with the attacker, intervened, allowing the victims to get away and call 911.
With aerial support from the HAWCS police helicopter, a 28-year-old woman was located and arrested in connection with the investigation. Bridgette Serverite is charged with common assault, mischief and causing a disturbance in public.
Police are looking to speak with anyone who witnessed or recorded the incident, as well as a Good Samaritan who stayed with the women following the attack.
Zaidi says there needs to be a collective effort from police, media and politicians to handle these situations better.
"It can't just be statements, there needs to be action," he said.
"That is such a sad feeling that living in Canada you fear for yourself and safety just because you look different and follow a different religion."
The group adds that it's a painful coincidence that March 21, the date of the Prince's Island Park attack, is also the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racism.
The spelling of the surname of the accused is Serverite, not Severite.