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Man charged after 'hate motivated' attack against Muslim woman on transit

Last Updated Dec 7, 2017 at 6:56 am PST

Summary

Provincial hate crimes unit called after Muslim woman is assaulted on the Canada Line

Man charged with two offences after Muslim woman is attacked on transit

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The BC Hate Crimes Unit has been contacted following a disturbing attack on the SkyTrain.

A 46-year-old man has been charged following, what Transit Police are calling, an “unprovoked hate motivated attack” on a woman on the Canada Line earlier this week.

They say at about 9:30 p.m. on Monday, a young woman got on the train at Waterfront Station and sat down. A man, who was seated nearby, apparently got up and started yelling at her as he walked towards her.

He spoke in Arabic, according to investigators, and began swearing and using offensive language. He reportedly told her to “go back to her country and that he would kill all Muslims.” Police say he also grabbed her head, pulled it into the area around his crotch and attempted to pull off her hijab.

Police say the suspect then apparently slapped her face, luckily, another passenger stood up and blocked him — pushing the suspect away. The suspect got off the train at Vancouver City Centre Station.

“The woman called the police and got off the train at Yaletown Station, accompanied by her protector. When Transit Police officers met her there a short time later, the woman was extremely traumatized and had trouble breathing. Paramedics were called,” says Anne Drennan with Transit Police.

The woman told officers she took several images of the man who were able to use that to track down the suspect by video surveillance and they noticed him getting on another outbound train and getting off at YVR.

The suspect was eventually spotted at a convenience store and taken into custody.

Pierre Belzan, who has no fixed address, has been charged with one count of threatening to cause death or bodily harm and one count of assault. A charge of sexual assault has also forwarded to Crown Counsel.

Drennan says Belzan has had “a lot” of police contact, but nothing has ever led to anything that’s resulted in a criminal record.

“We would like to thank and commend the gentleman who intervened in this incident and came to the aid of the woman. He put his own safety at risk and stopped what might have become an even more serious situation,” adds Drennan.

If you’re ever caught in an uncomfortable situation on transit, you can text police at 87.77.77 or call 604.515.8300.