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Was the Vancouver attack racist?

June 23, 2009 21:44 IST

Liberal Member of Parliament Ujjal Dosanjh called the attack two weeks ago on six young Indo-Canadians on the outskirts of Vancouver as "troubling." Reportedly, the six Indo-Canadians were assaulted while they were playing tennis at Jackman Park.

The Vancouver police have arrested four Canadians for racially abusing and robbing the six teenagers. The victims were robbed, and one was also hit on the head with a board. 

Dosanjh, former attorney general and premier of British Columbia, was cautious about calling it a racist attack.

"There might still be organized racist activities and racist violence in the country," he told Rediff India Abroad, "[but] in this case there doesn't appear to be any racist violence. It has an element of robbery in it which leads me to believe these were young punks and this was their perverted idea of having a good time.

"If the attack was motivated by hate," he added, "then it is appropriate that the prosecutors should ask for tougher sentences as is available under the human rights code."

The question, he said, was whether the boys were "attacked because they were Indo-Canadians. If you target people primarily because they are Indians or people of colour, that becomes more of an organized hate crime. If you want to target people because you want to rob them and in the process you hurl racist abuse at them, that is different, as I believe if the crime is motivated either in whole or in part  by racial hatred that's a much more sinister crime than simple robbery."

Sukh Dhaliwal, another Liberal Member of Parliament, said, "From all reports it is clear that at least one of the young people accused has been in trouble with the law before and not for any activities involving hate crime."

Echoing Dosanjh in calling it a "troubling incident," he said he was "pleased to see immediate action was taken by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's integrated hate crime team for investigation."

He agreed with Dosanjh that "if the evidence is compelling, prosecutors must make a strong case for stiffer penalties upon sentencing. We have to send a clear message that there's zero tolerance for any hate crimes in our communities."

Of the four accused, two are minors, including a 15-year-old who has been charged with two counts of robbery, uttering threats and assault with a weapon.

The other, 16, has been charged with two counts of robbery and one count of assault with a weapon. The other two accused are Rodney Mercieca, 19, and is Leslie Rothwell, 18.  Both of them have been charged with four counts of robbery, one count of uttering threats, six counts of assault with a weapon, and one count of assault causing bodily harm.

Ajit Jain