Community members in Surrey, B.C., are showing their support for a group of senior South Asian women and their grandchildren who were targeted by a couple throwing garbage and racist insults in a local park.
While the people involved have offered to apologize, the victims and local activists say more needs to be done to protect the vulnerable from racism and attacks like this one.
In a July 28 incident captured on video in Aspen Park, one woman is shown yelling at the group of seniors and their grandchildren, shouting "the next time I see garbage I will flip more s***t than just garbage... . I don't give a s*** if it's not yours."
A man is heard saying,"We are in Canada, you speak English. I don't understand what you are saying," followed by more vulgar language. The group said he also yelled "Go back to India," and the couple threw trash at them.
For 70-year-old Sukhninder Kaur Sangha, who was among the group targeted, Aspen Park has been a safe space to visit with her grandchildren and meet up with several of her senior friends.
But the incident has left the group feeling frightened about the possibility of similar encounters in the future.
"This should not happen to us — speaking wrongly and swearing. We don't say anything, we just sit there together," she said in Punjabi.
"I'm afraid of these people, that they will do something like this another time."
This is an escalation of an ongoing dispute over garbage and pets in the park, according to Surrey RCMP, who have said the couple was angry about littering.
But the seniors say neither they nor their grandchildren littered; rather the couple threw their own trash as well as more from the garbage can.
Nine-year-old Gurlal Gill says fries were thrown at him and his friends.
"I feel like being treated like garbage and I just want to tell them to treat people the way you want to be treated," he said.
Community members have planned a rally for Tuesday at 7 p.m. PT in the park to show their support.
Couple feeling remorseful, police say
Surrey RCMP say the couple is feeling remorseful for their actions.
"I know that they are very sorry about what happened. And they wanted to make an apology," said Surrey RCMP Cpl. Elenore Sturko.
Sturko said the RCMP condemns any racist comments that were made during this dispute.
"I think the use of ... racial insults in a dispute — that's what is at the heart of a lot of the hurt in this situation. It's not acceptable," she said.
The investigation is ongoing and RCMP are asking for witnesses to come forward with further evidence.
'Picking on those that are weaker'
Surrey anti-racism activist Dupinder Kaur Saran said the incidents highlights the importance of looking out for those who are vulnerable to assault and racism — especially seniors and children.
"It shows that the culprits are obviously picking on those that are weaker than themselves and the victim is not able to defend themselves," she said.
Saran said this incident reflects the disturbing prevalence of racism in the community.
According to a 2021 survey of Asian British Columbians, 77 per cent reported experiencing racism in some form or another while living in B.C.
"Our seniors and our elders, our generations from before have paved the path for us to be here and have the rights that we do. And I think it's not fair that we continue to be insulted the way we are at times," said Saran.
As for Sangha, she said she hopes to see accountability and change that ensures better safety for her grandchildren and other seniors who just want to gather in a park.