In a shocking attack in the city of Saskatoon, the largest city of Canada’s Saskatchewan province, a man has been arrested for an alleged racist and Islamophobic attack. Surveillance footage shows the man shouting, punching, and harassing both the manager, Hedayat Ullah, and another customer before leaving the premise. The man was also caught on video knocking over stands of candy inside the gas station store.
Manager Hedayat Ullah explains he was pumping gas alongside other members of his team at the Canarama Shell gas station when the man approached them from the sidewalk, shouting at them, asking them why they were in Canada, and saying that they didn’t have the right to be in the country.
Ullah then said to the man, “Brother, I can’t understand you,” which resulted in the man punching Ullah in the chest while shouting. In shock, Ullah then ran back towards the gas station store, where he was followed by the man who continued to shout abuses for at least another five minutes. Originally from Pakistan, Ullah was shocked at the entire incident:
I was surprised, because I thought Canada was for everybody. I was scared. I’m thinking he will get proper punishment under the law. If you don’t get any punishment, this thing will happen again and again. And honestly, I’m not feeling safe right now in my workplace, because I’m thinking, when will he come back and attack me?”
According to recent statistics, the rate of hate crimes reported to police in Saskatoon reached an all-time high last year at 11. Experts however, are quick to point out that in many cases, victims of hate crimes are too afraid or unable to report to the police, meaning numbers like these could be highly under-reported. Based off of a survey conducted by Statistics Canada, 17% of immigrants to Canada said they had experienced some form of discrimination.
Sanover Faruqi, a customer who was at the scene and witnessed everything, quickly called the police after the initial attack. Also in shock at what she witnessed, Faruqi explains that she never thought a racist and xenophobic attack like this could happen so close to home for her, and believes firmly that this incident constitutes as a racially-motivated attack:
I was shivering. I’ve heard different stories in my community about racist incidents, but I didn’t believe it because it never happened in front of my eyes.”
Police have now arrested the 45-year old man with charges of assault and mischief, along with an impending mental health assessment. The man made his first court appearance at the Saskatoon provincial court on Monday morning, with the case still ongoing. While there is a certain level of achievement in arresting the man, it still remains to be seen whether he will be charged with the appropriate charges of a hate crime. As levels of open Islamophobia, racism, and anti-immigrant rhetoric continue to affect the lives of innocent people, incidents like this must be looked at with the appropriate level of seriousness and prosecution.