Toronto taxi driver speaks out after suspect asked if he was Muslim and doused him with foreign substance
Published Wednesday, November 15, 2023 5:49PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, November 15, 2023 10:07PM EST
A Toronto taxi driver is speaking out after an unknown assailant asked if he was Muslim and then sprayed him with a foreign substance that caused a “burning” sensation in his eyes.
The incident happened just before 4:30 a.m. on Tuesday, as the driver was stopped at a red light at Front and Yonge streets.
CTV News Toronto has agreed to only use the driver’s first name, Bilal, due to safety concerns.
“I pulled down my window a little bit and asked, ‘Do you need a cab?’” he said during an interview on Wednesday.
“He (the suspect) just looking to me and say, ‘You are Muslim?’ I say, ‘Yeah, I am Muslim.’ And he [throws] something on my eyes and using f-words.”
Bilal said he immediately called 911 following the incident and was rushed to the hospital, where he his eyes had to be flushed out.
The suspect, meanwhile, fled the scene and remains outstanding.
Toronto police said they are aware of the incident and that their hate crime unit has joined the investigation.
In an update Wednesday night, Toronto police released a description of the suspect in an effort to identify him. He is described as a six-foot-tall man, between 20 to 30 years old, who was seen wearing a black coat and black pants.
Bilal’s sister-in-law, who CTV News Toronto agreed not to identify by name, feels frustrated by what happened.
“It makes me feel sad that in such a progressive country, instead of moving forward we’re kind of moving back with stuff like this, just because of his religion he was attacked and I don’t think that’s fair,” she told CTV News Toronto.
“Hate crimes do happen in Canada, despite being a multicultural country and city that we live in, stuff like this happens every day.”
While the substance has yet to be identified, Bilal is scheduled to meet with a specialist later to see if his eyes suffered any permanent damage as a result of the attack.
HATE CRIMES ON THE RISE
According to Toronto police, the number of hate crime calls have risen dramatically by 132 per cent amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.
In the first few days of the war alone – from Oct. 7 to Oct. 9 – police said they responded to 14 hate crime reports. In comparison, police only saw five incidents over the same period last year and only one in 2021.
“This reflects an escalation in hate-motivated incidents and also heightened public tensions,” Toronto police Chief Myron Demkiw said during the monthly police services board meeting on Oct. 19.
The force has also boosted the size of their hate crime unit as a result of the rise in hate crimes.
Police have not released any description of the suspect wanted in connection with Tuesday morning’s incident.