A Sikh student was attacked with pepper spray after an altercation on a B.C. Transit bus while he was on his way home from school in Kelowna on Monday.
Kelowna RCMP said in a statement that the attack occurred just before 4 p.m. at a bus stop at the intersection of Rutland Road and Robson Road in the Okanagan city.
Mounties say a 17-year-old student was either bear or pepper sprayed by another teenage boy following an altercation on a B.C. Transit bus that resulted in those involved being told to leave.
"Several witness statements have been obtained, and the teenaged suspect in this incident has already been identified," reads a statement from Cpl. Michael Gauthier.
The World Sikh Organization of Canada released a statement condemning the attack and said the Sikh student could not understand why he was attacked in this way. They also say the victim was a newcomer to Canada and was now afraid to return to Rutland Senior Secondary School, where he studied, or take public transit.
According to the WSO, two individuals were involved in the attack and allegedly threatened the Sikh youth with a lighter while on the bus, filming the interaction on their phones. After the victim turned away, the WSO says he was kicked and punched in front of the bus driver.
Aman Singh Hundal, the B.C. vice-president of the organization, said the bus driver then told the attackers and the victim to leave the bus — after which the pepper spray incident occurred and bystanders intervened.
"We're also concerned about the B.C. Transit, right?" Hundal told CBC News, "Like, why would they drop him off if he was getting attacked and beat up? They should have kicked the other two people off the bus. Why would they leave him off the bus with these two people alone?"
In a statement, a B.C. Transit spokesperson said their thoughts were with the assault victim and they were supporting Mounties with the investigation.
They did not respond directly to the allegations raised by Hundal regarding the bus driver letting off the victim and the alleged attacker, saying the investigation was active and they could not comment on specifics.
"Though incidents of this nature are rare on B.C. Transit buses and at bus stops, we take reports of inappropriate and illegal behaviour within our systems very seriously and work closely with police to follow the legal process for complaints," the spokesperson said.
Kelowna City Councillor Mohini Singh told CBC News that the student had only been in the city for around five months and spoke little English. She called the attack "totally unacceptable."
"He loves going to school. He has a great rapport with his teachers. No problem there," she said. "He is absolutely traumatized. He's in a state of shock."
The attack on a Sikh student occurred at a bus stop just south of Rutland Road and Robson Road in Kelowna on Monday, according to RCMP. (Google Maps)
Singh said she went to visit the teenager, and that he was hardly able to lift his head from his chest and only spoke a few words.
"This has sent shockwaves through the community," the councillor said. "The Indo-Canadian community is shocked by this ... this is absolutely despicable."
It's the second attack on a Sikh student in the central Interior city this year. On March 17, international student Gagandeep Singh was also attacked as he left a B.C. Transit bus.
At the time, RCMP said investigators were consulting with their hate crimes unit.