Calgary police chief addresses ‘brazen’ city hate groups

There's a fine line between constitutional rights and police action, said Chief Mark Neufeld

Calgary police Chief Mark Neufeld. LIVEWIRE FILE PHOTO

Calgary’s police chief said the justice system and the constitutional right impede progress in addressing hate symbols, as the city grapples with the aftermath of two weekend attacks.

On Sunday afternoon, two young women were subject to what Calgary police described as a racially-motivated attack while walking along the trail to Prince’s Island Park.

During an afternoon walk, the women were suddenly approached by another woman who punched one of them in the face, and then kicked her stomach.

The attack is believed to have been racially motivated as the attacker hurled racial slurs at them before tearing the victim’s hijab off and allegedly proceeding with the assault. Hijabs are scarfs Muslim women wear around their heads.

Bridgette Severite, 28, was later found and charged in relation to the assault.

Police believe there is no relation between this incident and the protests that occurred over the weekend.

The investigation into the matter is ongoing as police are looking to speak with witnesses to the attack, and anyone who may have recorded it on video.

Police have also been looking for the good Samaritan who stayed with the women until they arrived.

In another incident, a counter-protester in a wheelchair was allegedly struck by an attendee at a weekend march.

Police commission talker

City Councillor Gian-Carlo Carra pressed CPS on the issue of dealing with these groups linked to potential hate activity in Calgary. Carra raised the question at Tuesday’s Calgary Police Commission meeting.

“Members of our community who being hateful… how do we put them on notice that this is not something that they’ll be able to slide by?” Carra asked.

Calgary police Chief Mark Neufeld said he would be bringing it up at a Canadian Association of Police Chiefs meeting.

“We, not unlike the governance boards, put forward resolutions,” said Neufeld.

“The problem is those are not processes that happen quickly.”

To which Carra responded: “It’s a wicked problem we’re facing, but every time we say our hands are tied, it seems to supercharge or make offenders more brazen.”

An expectation of police to do more than they can is something that conflicts with constitutional rights, Neufeld said.

“In our democratic society, I don’t know that you ever get out of that long court process,” he said.

Neufeld noted the legal groups that challenge actions taken against these right-wing groups. The Chief compared dealing with racially-motivated people to having to enforce mask bylaws.

“It isn’t as simple as going to court and was Joe or Jane wearing a mask,” said Neufeld.

The challenges within the justice system make it hard to hard to bring people before the court, according to Neufeld.

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