Police hunt for man suspected of pepper-spraying crowd outside Muslim Centre

Image: Wikimedia.

Shortly after 10:30 p.m. on Friday night, about 100 or so people were gathered outside of the Muslim Association of Canada Centre on 2122 Kingsway Avenue, when a man rode up on his bike and pepper sprayed approximately 15 people. He then fled, according to the Vancouver Police Department. Police continue to hunt for the suspect and are treating the incident as a hate crime.

A number of people suffering from the effects of the pepper spray had to be taken away in an ambulance – including a toddler – and some other victims vomited.

The newly-arrived refugees were attending a welcome night and dinner when the attack occurred.

This isn't who we are — and doesn't reflect the warm welcome Canadians have offered,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau posted on Twitter the following day.

Immigration Minister John McCallum, B.C. Premier Christy Clark, and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson also condemned the attack.

If the pepper spray attack is a hate crime as police suspect, it would be the latest in a series of Islamophobic incidents across Canada over the last several months. Last fall, a Muslim lady in Montreal had her headscarf ripped off in an assault that left her on the ground, an attack that may have been inspired by heated debate over the wearing of niqabs during the federal election.

Soon after the Paris terror attacks last November, an Islamic centre in Ontario was torched in an arson attack, while a mosque in Calgary suffered a break-in by thieves who stole a computer and donation boxes.

South of the border, American presidential hopeful Donald Trump has stoked fears by calling for a federal government database to monitor Muslims, make them carry special identification, impose a ban on Muslims entering the US, and has promised to send back Syrian refugees if elected president.

The Muslim Association of Canada was not available for comment today.

Check for updates.

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