Last night, a group of Syrian refugees who had recently arrived in Vancouver were gathered at the Muslim Association of Canada Centre located at 2122 Kingsway for a community welcome night.

Shortly after 10:30 p.m., approximately 100 people, which included a smaller undetermined number of refugees, were congregated outside of the Centre waiting for a bus, when an unknown man on a bicycle rode up and pepper-sprayed the group of men, women and children.

He rode off on his bicycle, westbound on Kingsway.

A number of calls were made to 9-1-1, and police, the Vancouver Fire and Rescue Service and the BC Ambulance Service attended the Centre.

Approximately 15 people were treated for exposure to the pepper-spray by paramedics and the fire department.

Throughout the night, we focused on ensuring the safety of the refugees and searching for the man on the bicycle who we believe is responsible for spraying the crowd.

That search is continuing today.

He is believed to have had a slim build and was wearing a white or gray hooded sweatshirt.

A number of sections within the Vancouver Police Department are currently assisting with the investigation.

  • Patrol
  • Canine
  • Major Crime Section
  • Forensic Identification Unit
  • Video canvass and physical evidence collection
  • Victim Services Unit
  • Hate Crimes Unit
  • Diversity Section
  • Muslim Liaison Officer
  • Arabic speaking officers

Although the motive for the pepper spraying is unknown at this time, investigators are treating it as a hate motivated crime, until determined otherwise.

No arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing.

This is a very troubling situation, as the actions of one man have shed a negative light on the positive work being done to welcome the Syrian refugees into our community.

The appropriate resources are being utilized to identify the suspect, solve this crime, and assist the victims with this troubling incident.