Black man bear sprayed in alleged hate crime in Oshawa

Durham Regional Police say they are investigating a
Durham Regional Police say they are investigating a

Durham Regional Police are seeking a man who allegedly attacked a Black man with bear spray and uttered "derogatory racial slurs" while the victim was in his car in an Oshawa parking lot in March.

In a news release on Tuesday, police say they believed the attack to be a "hate/bias motivated" incident. The attack happened on March 21 in the area of Gibb Street and Stevenson Road South. Police were called to the area at about 6:05 p.m.

Const. Nicholas Gluckstein, spokesperson for the Durham police, said in an interview on Tuesday that the incident began when a man approached a vehicle in the parking lot and knocked on the window. The second man, who was minding his own business, rolled down the window to see if the man was in distress, he said.

At that point, the first man sprayed the second man with the bear spray, uttered racial slurs and ran away on foot, police said.

The victim suffered minor injuries and was treated at the scene by paramedics.

The suspect is described as white, about 35 to 40 years old, with a thin build. He was wearing a fitted black toque, police say.

Gluckstein said Durham police typically report incidents immediately but did not do so in this case, likely for investigative reasons. He said if investigators want to follow up on leads first, then there could be a delay in reporting.

"Sometimes our investigators have leads or circumstances that they want to follow up on themselves. So we refrain from releasing to the media on those types of instances. But when we come to sort of impasses where we're seeking assistance from the public, or it would benefit us gravely to have information from the public, then we'll release that information if some time has passed," he said.

Gluckstein said police take these kinds of crimes very seriously.

"If anybody feels that they've been a victim of a hate or bias motivated incident or crime, then they should definitely come forward and speak with police and then we can better inform them of what avenues to take or whether it was an actual criminal offence and we can investigate that," he said.

'A pattern of behaviour,' social worker says

Nicole Perryman, a social worker and executive director of Ifarada Centre for Excellence and Kujenga Wellness Project, an organization that works to support Black families in Durham region, said it's important for such incidents to be reported.

She said the incident is shocking but not an uncommon experience for Black youth.

"We need to show this is a pattern of behaviour. It's not a one off. I could tell you many situations that have happened in the last couple of months where anti-Black racism was a target and people were harmed physically because of it," Perryman said.

Perryman said anti-Black racism is a systematic issue and a "trauma that's experienced over and over again by the Black community."

She added that it's important for families to be educated about the issue and understand what it looks like and so that "they can use their voice to address issues as they come up."