Edmonton Sikh community continues to receive ‘disturbing’ hate-motivated harassment

EDMONTON — After going public about receiving harassing phone calls and pranks, Edmonton’s Sikh community at a local place of worship is once again being affected by hate-fuelled incidents.

Over the last sixth months, Singh Sabha Gurdwara in Mill Woods received harassing phone calls and meat lovers pizzas delivered to the religious group that doesn’t eat meat.

When the community initially shared the story in July, Gurpreet Kaur said the phone calls stopped.

“Going public took a lot of courage,” Kaur told CTV News Edmonton. “We thought we were out of the woods. We thought everything was okay.”

The calls have since returned over the past two weeks, but this time they are taunting.

“(They’re) saying you haven’t even caught me yet,” Kaur recalled. “It just gives you a feeling of despair. It makes us think, what can we do next?

“Now that it’s started again it’s been really difficult to deal with.”

Recordings of the calls have been forwarded to the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) which Kaur hopes will help resolve some of the anxiety the community has been facing.

“Having these phone calls, especially when you are a volunteer,” Kaur said, “is really, really difficult.

“How long will this go on for,” she added. “It’s just exhausting.”

NOT SIMPLY A ‘SMALL’ INCIDENT

EPS would not confirm to CTV News if they were investigating the calls as a hate crime, however, a local organization that documents events like this says it has seen the numbers of hate-motivated incidents rise in the past year.

“Over the last year we’ve seen an increase in reports,” said Irfan Chaudhry, vice president of the Alberta Hate Crimes Committee (AHCC). “When you look back at the last year, no community has been left unturned, unfortunately when it comes to hate crimes and discrimination.

“Not only is it affecting one individual but also the entire community who look like that individual or share that faith,” Chaudhry said. “It has a ripple effect that affects the entire community more than typical crimes do.

“It’s really easy from a broader perspective to just discount that saying, ‘It’s just a phone call,’” he added. “This is still really impacting people.”

Chaudry said anyone who is a victim or witnesses of a hate crime, an event that meets the definition law enforcement can charge someone under the Criminal Code, report the incident to police. Anything that does not should be reported as a hate incident to an organization like the AHCC.

“Share your story, and encourage reporting (of incidents),” he said. “It’s important to document those ‘smaller’ calls, that some might frame as a nuisance so that they are being taken seriously before it escalates.

“It’s really important to just document it so we start to develop a broader understanding and awareness of where it is happening and communities being impacted.” 

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Ryan Harding

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