An international student was punched and then stabbed Saturday night after exiting the LRT at University Station.
An international commerce cooperative education student from China, was riding the LRT on April 24 when they were followed off the train by a stranger at University Station. Sharing the incident on their Facebook, the student said that the man first approached them on the train thinking the student had asked them a question. After the student got off the LRT, the man followed them and proceeded to punch them in the face. According to the student, when they tried to defend themselves, the man proceeded to stab them in the hand.
The “stranger” has been identified by Edmonton Police Services (EPS) as 30-year old David Durocher. Durocher was apprehended near University Avenue and 114 St. and has been charged with aggravated assault and possession of a weapon twice as he was carrying both a knife and bear spray.
According to International Students’ Association (ISA) vice-president (external) Gurbani Baweja, the student has been in contact with the ISA and is doing “okay now.”
She said that the ISA and the Students’ Union have connected the student with both the Dean of Students and International Student Services so he can access supports he requires as he recovers.
Bystanders at University LRT Station
On their Facebook post, the student shared that though the conductor stopped the train after he was attacked, none of the passengers came to their aid after Durocher left the scene.
According to the student, some passengers told others that the stabbing was “[their] problem.” The student had to press the emergency button.
In their post, the student also seemed disappointed University of Alberta Protective Services (UAPS) didn’t respond in a timely manner.
“The University of Alberta Protective Service (UAPS) office is located in the education building, which is 10 minutes walk from the train station, but I waited about 15-20 minutes to have the city police arrived instead of those UAPS,” the student said on Facebook.
“Shame for humanity, public security of the City of Edmonton and the University of Alberta campuses.”
U of A President Bill Flanagan put out a statement this afternoon clarifying that ETS help buttons connect to ETS security who then reach out to emergency services. He said for incidents involving transit, UAPS assists ETS if possible.
He also clarified that UAPS were on the scene minutes after being notified by the EPS.
In response to the situation, the University of Alberta Students’ Union released a statement including the “5 Ds of Bystander Intervention,” which includes strategies such as de-escalating the situation by changing the subject and interrupting dangerous situations by calling out inappropriate actions.
Stabbing not a hate crime, says ISA
After speaking with the student, Baweja said that he believes the attack was not a hate crime, but rather a random attack. As racist attacks against Asian communities have increased during the pandemic, Baweja said she understands the concern the U of A community is showing but insists it wasn’t a racist attack.
“[The student] said it was just a random incident,” Baweja said.
“We don’t want people to perceive it in that sense because if there is any false information out there it will impact our Asian community.”
This point was included in the statement put out by the ISA this morning. In the statement, the ISA, Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA), and the New Chinese Generations Leadership Development (NCG) student group “strongly” condemned the attack and urged international students to remain calm.
Baweja said that international students were scared after the incident and were especially shocked that no one helped their fellow international student after the attack.
“We as international students perceive Canada to be safer than our home country or as a safe country,” she said. “The main motive of our [statement] was to let students know that they are safe and campus is still a safe community.”
ISA says that cops needed on campus
The stabbing has inspired the ISA to take the official stance that police are needed on campus, contrary to the recent movement to remove police from campus.
Baweja said the ISA is officially against the No Cops on Campus Collective, a group of U of A community members aiming to end the Police Liaison program on campus. No Cops on Campus argues that having police on campus disproportionately affects Black, Indigenous, LGBTQ2S+ and unhoused individuals negatively.
“We have a stance that we don’t want to support [No Cops on Campus] because as you see, there is actually a need for cops to be there on campus,” she explained. “The university has two stations on campus and it’s not just the LRT where incidents like this happen.”
Alongside this stance, the ISA is already in conversation with the Dean of Students André Costopoulos to discuss campus security. At their next board meeting, the ISA will also be discussing what official actions they will on the matter.
“We’re not sending out the message that it’s unsafe and the security system is not in place, but we want to raise the point that it needs to be improved,” she said. “We’re not blaming anyone in particular about it, but we’re creating the [conversation] that we need to do better.”
U of A President “deeply concerned” about University LRT Station attack
In his statement, Flanagan said he was “deeply concerned” about the incident.
He said that although “preliminary accounts” suggest the attack wasn’t racially motivated, campus is still asafe space for all.
“We want to reaffirm our commitment to providing a safe and secure environment for our diverse university community,” Flanagan said in his statement.
He also thanked the EPS for their work and said that UAPS is continuing to support the investigation.
Flanagan offered up the Dean of Students as a place students can go if they feel affected by this attack.
“I encourage any student affected by this incident to reach out to U of A student services.”
The Gateway reached out to the student for comment but did not receive a response.
This article was updated at 9:47 p.m. on April 26 with additional information.