Hamilton’s police chief is condemning what his force describes as a hate crime against Muslims after a mother and daughter were allegedly chased and threatened by a man this week.
Police have arrested and charged a 40-year-old in Monday’s incident, which took place when a mother and daughter were walking through a parking lot in the Hamilton community of Ancaster.
Police Chief Frank Bergen said Wednesday that the force will do everything it can to ensure the safety of Muslims in Hamilton.
“We continue to be outraged by these blatant acts of hatred,” he said in a video posted online. “We stand with the Muslim community here in Hamilton and across the country in condemning Islamophobia.”
A mother and daughter were walking through a plaza parking lot on Monday night when a vehicle pulling out of a parking spot almost struck one of them, police said.
Investigators alleged the man uttered threats toward the pair while using slurs targeting the Muslim community.
The mother and daughter ran across the street and hid behind some bushes, where the man found them and allegedly threatened to kill them, police said. One of the victims ran screaming for help and witnesses intervened as the man fled, police added.
Chief Bergen thanked witnesses who stepped in, adding that “it took courage” for them to do so.
The National Council of Canadian Muslims described what happened as “yet another terrifying attack on two Muslim women wearing hijab in Hamilton.”
The organization released a statement from the family in which they said they were “shaken but unbroken” by what happened.
“Let us be clear: this individual attempted to terrorize our family,” the organization quoted the family as saying Tuesday. “Our family could have been seriously hurt – we cannot allow these things to keep happening.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Twitter Tuesday night that he strongly condemns the “violent, hateful and abhorrent behaviour.”
“I’m deeply disturbed by reports of an Islamophobic attack on Muslim women in Hamilton yesterday. It has no place in our country or any of our communities,” Mr. Trudeau said.
Police said 40-year-old Vince Licata of Cambridge, Ont., has been charged and is scheduled to appear in court on Thursday.
He faces three counts of uttering death threats, two counts of assault with a weapon, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, and failure to comply with probation, police said.
The Hamilton incident comes after four members of a Muslim family were struck and killed by a vehicle in London, Ont., last month in what police have called an attack motivated by hate.
The London attack prompted a national discussion on the racism Muslims face in Canada and calls for action to combat Islamophobia. Muslims young and old have spoken out about their fear to walk outside or wear traditional clothing.
A 20-year-old man faces four first-degree murder charges and one count of attempted murder in the London attack, which prosecutors allege was an act of terrorism.
Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.