Teen attacked on BC bus was left to "fend for himself": Sikh organization

Sep 14 2023, 6:54 pm

A teenager is recovering from a violent attack that has caught the attention of the World Sikh Organization of Canada, which is expressing deep concern as this is the second attack on a young Sikh person in Kelowna this year.

According to the organization, a Grade 11 student was waiting at a bus stop in front of Rutland Senior Secondary School around 3:45 pm Monday. When the bus arrived, two people approached the student and “first barred his entry onto the bus.”

On board the bus, the pair threatened the student with a lighter, photographed and recorded him with their phones, the WSO claims.

“When the Sikh student turned away, the attackers’ phone fell from their hands and they began to kick and punch the Sikh student in front of the bus driver,” a statement from the Sikh organization reads. “The bus driver did not intervene and in fact, ordered the Sikh student and his attackers off the bus at the Rutland and Robson stop.”

Rutland at Robson bus stop (Google Maps)

After the three stepped off the bus, the student was pepper sprayed and continued to be assaulted until bystanders intervened, the organization claims. 

“The Sikh student is a recent newcomer to Canada and did not understand why he was attacked or the slurs and insults that were shouted at him during the incident,” WSO said. 

Investigations ongoing

Kelowna RCMP confirmed it arrested one young man suspected to be involved in the incident on Wednesday. This person remains in custody to appear in court Thursday for a bail hearing. 

“While the effects of bear spray are extremely painful and may only be temporary, the effects of this young man’s decisions will last much much longer,” Cpl. Michael Gauthier said. “We condemn any acts of violence in our community and are thoroughly investigating this matter.”

Apart from calling for a full investigation from RCMP, WSO is also urging BC Transit to investigate “why the driver in this incident did nothing to stop the attack and by removing the victim from the bus, allowed the attack to continue.”

 

BC Transit did not comment directly to the criticism when Daily Hive reached out as it could not comment further on an active investigation, it said.

However, BC Transit added that while incidents like the one that occurred earlier this week are “rare” on board BC Transit buses, “we take reports of inappropriate and illegal behaviour within our systems very seriously and work closely with police to follow the legal process for complaints.”

BC Transit encourages victims of harassment or assault and also witnesses of inappropriate or illegal activity on a bus to “please tell the driver immediately or call the police.”

BC Transit’s safety systems include:

  • CCTVs on a majority of buses,
  • Operator emergency notification protocols and enhanced radio communication to support managing on-road incidents,
  • And partnerships with first responders.

Kelowna RCMP added its investigators will conduct video analysis and review additional evidence to determine how the events transpired on the bus before they deboarded. 

“This evidence will be important for police and prosecutors to understand what led up to the assault with a weapon and the motivation for the crime,” Cpl. Michael Gauthier said. “There is no doubt that the victim was bear sprayed and assaulted by the accused; this has been made quite clear.” 

WSO Vice President for BC Guntaas Kaur expressed his disappointment with the BC Transit bus driver “leaving the Sikh student to fend for himself.” 

In a statement where he described the incident as both “shocking and unacceptable,” he said the student who is now recovering from his injuries “cannot understand why he was assaulted.”

“He is afraid to return to school for fear of being attacked again,” Kaur said. 

Earlier this year, a 21-year-old international student was swarmed and assaulted by a group of 12 to 15 young people and left in a “terrible state,” a city councillor explained. 

The incident also took place in Kelowna after Gagandeep Singh boarded a bus and encountered a group of men and women, City Councillor Mohini Singh told Daily Hive in March. 

Once the young man got off the bus Mohini said the group followed him, “waited for the bus to drive away and then… assaulted him, hit him, swarmed him… and then pulled this turban off, dragged him by his hair, and left him.”

The student was left unconscious, Mohini said.

Anyone who has information regarding Monday’s incident is asked to phone the Kelowna RCMP and reference file number 2023-54354. If you wish to remain anonymous, contact Central Okanagan Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or submit a tip online at www.crimestoppers.net.

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