January 15, 2018 / 7:56 PM / 8 months ago

Attack on child wearing hijab 'did not happen,' Canadian police say

TORONTO (Reuters) - An alleged attack on an 11-year-old girl wearing a hijab as she walked to school did not happen, Toronto Police said on Monday.

Police had been investigating the incident as a hate crime after the girl said that a man wielding a pair of scissors cut her hijab as she walked to school with her brother on Friday morning.

By Monday police concluded that no crime had occurred.

“We put together a lot of evidence, we considered the evidence and came to the conclusion that what was described did not happen,” Toronto police spokesman Mark Pugash told Reuters, adding that the investigation is over.

The girl’s family could not immediately be reached for comment.

Staff at the girl’s school made the call to police on Friday, “as they would in any other case,” Toronto District School Board spokesman Ryan Bird wrote in an email. “We are very thankful that this assault did not happen.”

Monday’s revelation comes amid heightened pressure on Canadian governments to combat anti-Muslim sentiment as the first anniversary of a fatal mosque shooting approaches.

Researchers have documented an increase in far-right extremist activity in Canada, much of it targeting Muslims.

A survey conducted last year by Ontario’s Human Rights Commission found that more people reported harboring “very negative” feelings about Muslims than about any other group.

“All of us are deeply worried about the fallout of all of this,” writer and human rights advocate Amira Elghawaby said, adding that the girl’s false claim could make people less likely to come forward if they’re the target of hate crimes, or less likely to be believed when they do.

“The biggest concern is that this would cause those who already hold hateful views of Muslims to use it as an ‘aha’ moment,” she said.

On Jan. 29 last year six people were shot to death at a Quebec City mosque. A French-Canadian university student has been charged with murder in what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called a “terrorist attack.”

The National Council of Canadian Muslims has called on Canadian governments to declare the day of the mosque shooting a day of remembrance and action on Islamophobia.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard on Monday said he opposed such a designation. Trudeau has not said whether he would support it.

Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny; Editing by Leslie Adler

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