Edmonton police lay charges in ‘hate-motivated’ attacks on 3 women

A man has charged in connection to three recent attacks on women in south Edmonton. (Codie McLachlan/CBC)

A 44-year-old man has been charged in connection with three “hate-motivated” attacks in south Edmonton on women, two of whom were wearing head coverings.

Shane Edward Tremblay, of no fixed address, faces three counts each of uttering threats and assault.

“The actions of this individual have traumatized these three women and created a significant level of fear in our community,” Sgt. Gary Willits of the hate crimes and violent extremism unit of the Edmonton Police Service, said in a news release Monday.

Tremblay is well known to police and Edmonton Transit for “multiple related incidents over the last few years,” Willits said.

Willits credited transit officials, University of Alberta Protective Services and businesses along Whyte Avenue, especially staff of a convenience store, who he said were instrumental in identifying the suspect.

The news release describes “three recent hate-motivated incidents involving women” on Edmonton streets.

At 12:15 p.m. MT on Feb. 3, a 19-year-old woman wearing a hijab was waiting inside the University of Alberta Transit Centre when she was approached by a man uttering racial slurs, police said.

The man became aggressive, posturing as though he was about to assault the woman. He fled after a transit employee became involved.

The second incident occurred 30 minutes later near 100th Street and Whyte Avenue when a man ran across the road and stopped on the sidewalk, blocking the way of a 27-year-old Black woman wearing a burka.

The man began swearing and yelling insults. He crossed the street away from the woman, then crossed back and pushed her from behind while making threats to kill her and tear off her burka.

Tremblay also faces charges in relation to a third incident at 2:10 p.m. on Jan. 18. A  43-year-old Black woman outside a convenience store near 91st Street and Whyte Avenue was followed into the store, where she was assaulted.

Arrest sends a message
Jibril Ibrahim, president of Edmonton’s Somali-Canadian Cultural Society, said the arrest sends a message.

“It gives people in the community a sense of confidence and safety because they can see that steps are being taken to protect them,” Ibrahim said.

“But also the people who are out there, who feel that they can harass people, whether they are driving or they are walking on the streets or just waiting for a bus or LRT, at least now they know that they will not be able to get away with it.”

Ibrahim said legislation needs to be amended to give police more freedom to lay charges in incidents related to misogyny, Islamophobia and race while still respecting freedom of speech. He is also calling for improvements to the reporting process to ensure victims feel safe and incidents don’t go unreported.

The hate crimes unit is recommending Section 718.2 of the Criminal Code of Canada be applied in this case, allowing the courts to consider increased sentencing if there is evidence the offence was motivated by hatred, the release said.

There have been at least three other recent similar attacks in south Edmonton.