Toronto police are investigating an alleged hate crime after a man reportedly cut a hijab off an 11-year-old girl.
It happened near Pauline Johnson Public School near Warden Avenue and Sheppard Avenue East in Scarborough on Friday morning.
The Grade 6 student was on her way to school when the man allegedly came up to her, pulled off her hood and used scissors to cut off her hijab. Police said she was attacked by the same man a second time about 10 minutes later. She was not injured.
The suspect fled before officers arrived. Police say he is Asian, 20 to 30 years old, about five-foot-seven to five-foot-eight with a thin build, black hair with straight bangs down to his eyebrows and a thin moustache. He was last seen wearing black prescription glasses, a black sweater with the hood up, black pants and brown gloves.
“Me and my brother were walking together to school and sadly someone assaulted me by cutting my hijab two times.” Khawlah Noman told reporters at a news conference. “I felt really scared and confused.”
Khawlah said she was walking on Birchmount Road when she noticed a man behind her cutting her hijab. She screamed, crossed the street and followed the crowd to be safe.
The man approached her again and continued to cut off her hijab. He then smiled and ran away. When Khawlah got to school, she told her principal what happened.
Khawlah said the man cut 12 inches off her hijab and her friend gave her a new one to wear.
Her mother, Saima Samad, was in tears while describing her fear over her daughter’s assault.
‘”I was just very sad,” Samad said. “I’m just so happy she’s safe.”
Grade 6 student Khawlah talks about the moment when a man used scissors cut her hijab as she walked to Pauline Johnson Junior Public school near Sheppard and Birchmount. pic.twitter.com/tl4HjGYTx2
— Kevin Misener (@Misener680NEWS) January 12, 2018
“We are shocked to learn of this assault and we will be working closely with police to offer any assistance that we can,” Toronto District School Board spokesman Ryan Bird said in a statement. “In the meantime, we are offering supports to the impacted student and her family.”
Premier Kathleen Wynne tweeted about the incident, calling it a “cowardly act of hatred.”
This is a cowardly act of hatred, and it has no place in Ontario. This does not represent who we are. We must stand firm in our support of this young girl who was assaulted simply for wearing a hijab.
— Kathleen Wynne (@Kathleen_Wynne) January 12, 2018
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned the attack, saying he hopes the girl knows that not all Canadians are like her attacker.
“I want her and her family and her friends and community to know that that is not what Canada is, that is not who Canadians are,” he said at the conclusion of a Liberal caucus retreat in London, Ont.
Opposition leader Andrew Scheer called the incident “despicable.”
“This type of thing is just despicable and has no place in Canadian society,” he said following a meeting of the Missisauga, Ontario Board of Trade. “I certainly hope that the Toronto police services are able to track down the person who committed this violent act.”