A U of A student is calling for the university to re-examine security procedures after he was stabbed at the University LRT station on April 24.
It was an average Saturday for the student who wishes to remain anonymous. He started his day taking a class seven knowledge test to start the process of exchanging his Chinese license for an Albertan one. He passed, only getting three questions wrong.
Next, he headed down to the Old Strathcona farmers market, spent the rest of the afternoon with his roommate, and then spent the evening downtown.
Heading home around 9 p.m., he thought about catching an Uber since a ride home from downtown wasn’t that expensive. However, he chose the public transit route and caught the LRT from Corona station.
As he waited for the LRT, he heard a man yell down from the upper floor of the station, prompting him to turn around and see a man walking away from the ledge. He couldn’t make out what the man was saying.
There was a security guard patrolling the upper floor of the station, so he thought maybe it was the security guard who yelled. The train arrived and he got on.
After the LRT started to enter the bridge on top of the North Saskatchewan River, a man came to sit beside the student.
It dawned on the student that this was the man he heard yelling and saw walking away from the upper floor of Corona Station.
Though the student had a hard time making out what the man was saying, he came to understand the man thought he asked the student questions.
The student didn’t respond to him and said the man got aggressive.
The student said that other passengers noticed the man’s aggressive behaviour, but no one did anything.
He got off the train and the man followed and blocked him from using the escalator. He started threatening the student.
The doors of the LRT train he just got off were still open.
The man punched the student in the face and the student tried to defend himself. The man then took a knife out of his gym bag and stabbed the student in his left arm.
The doors on the LRT train were still open.
After the attack, the man fled the scene taking the escalator and the student started to walk towards the train, blood running down his legs and dripping onto the platform.
The doors on the LRT train were still open.
He said that some of the other passengers stopped those who were trying to get off the train to help him, overhearing someone say “that’s his problem.”
The student decided to not get on the train.
The doors of the LRT finally closed and the train left the station.
People waiting on the platform also kept their distance and watched as the student pressed the emergency button in the middle of the station.
The operator asked if he needed an ambulance or the police. The student yelled into the emergency button that he wanted justice — he wanted the police to come and apprehend the man.
The student said he didn’t know how to treat the wound and became so afraid he couldn’t bring himself to even look at it before the police arrived. The police came and wrapped the student’s arm with a bandage.
The student was then taken to the University of Alberta Hospital by medics where he learned the attacker had cut through the muscle of his left forearm, causing the student to get seven stitches.
As he was being loaded into the ambulance, the student recalls something he said to the medics in the heat of the moment: “Canadians are bad.”
“It sounds very emotional, but at the time it really described my mood,” he said. “I didn’t expect to be treated like that… When people are in car accidents people stop for the cars. I was bleeding and verbally assaulted and there was no danger — the person who attacked me already escaped. The people on the train had a chance to get off to help me.”
“The worst [of it all] was I was attacked and bleeding, the guy already escaped, there was no danger anymore, and they still chose to not take care of me and give me first aid because they thought it was my problem, not their problem.”
The student was also surprised that no one on the platform approached him.
“There were still other people planning to take the train on the platform… they stayed far away from me, didn’t come to me to ask me how I was doing,” he said. “They didn’t even use their cellphone [to call 911] either. After I pressed the emergency button I was watching them, and they were still far away. I was in the centre of University Station, not the button near the elevator.”
The number of bystanders that watched him suffer after the attack leads the student to wonder how things would’ve turned out if the initial punch from the attacker left him unconscious.
“If I was knocked out and lost my consciousness, I could’ve been stabbed more than once,” he said. “If I lost too much blood I couldn’t have walked to the emergency [call button]. It would have been another student [dead].”
When the student arrived at the University of Alberta Hospital, the loneliness he felt on the platform was only amplified. He claimed that in trying to make him feel better, the hospital staff actually alienated him more by telling him that others have had it worse.
“[Hospital Staff] compared injury and said I should be happy my injury wasn’t severe compared to others, but [the injury] is unique to me,” he said. “I was still [feeling] lonely after being ditched on the platform, I felt like I couldn’t trust people.”
It was the student’s first time being in an emergency room, so he wasn’t sure if the staff was just desensitized to seeing injuries like his.
The student had to get imaging done and remembers being cold in just a t-shirt for most of the process. He waited alone for about 10 to 15 minutes for the porter to take him back to his room afterwards. When he got back to his bed, he had to ask a nurse to change the bandage the police put on his wound. When they took off the bandage, the student said his hand was purple and he couldn’t feel it.
However, it’s not really about the medical care the student received, but rather how his time in the hospital built on what he experienced earlier at the LRT platform.
“I’m not complaining, but I felt like the whole experience was so lonely — there was so much lack of support,” he said.
Being an international student who’s been away from his parents for almost two years, he didn’t even know who to call since he has no relatives in Edmonton and most of his friends went back home due to the pandemic.
“When I was in the hospital my first thought was, who should I contact because I don’t want my parents to worry,” he said. “[Due to COVID-19] I have a very limited network support in Canada. I was thinking who could send me meals, how could I get back to my normal daily life.”
Eventually, a friend was able to join the student and distracted him as he got his stitches around 3 a.m. However, the feeling of loneliness is something the student still can’t shake to this day.
As no one on the train or platform attempted to help him, the student realized the age-old stereotype that all Canadians are friendly was, in fact, simply a stereotype.
The student recalled telling his parents back in China about a recent announcement regarding a new pathway to permanent residency for graduated international students. This new pathway is supposed to give permanent residency to 90,000 international students and temporary workers.
His mother couldn’t fathom how the Canadian could take on 90,000 more permanent residents. The student explained to his mother that these international students and workers could stimulate the economy by creating more job opportunities and vibrant communities. But he also told his mother about the certain allure of Canada for international students.
“The reason why [Canada] is appealing to new immigrants is not only the economy,” he explained. “Upper and middle-class people choose Canada because there are social values — inclusivity, diverse heritage. It’s [now] a slap on my face to have told my parents that.”
In fact, the student still has not told his parents about the attack for this very reason. He feels his defence of staying in Canada for its social values would be weakened in this parent’s eyes.
“It would be so disappointing for them to know they sent their child abroad to study and their child got attacked and no one helped him,” he said.
Even though he doesn’t want his parents to know about the attack, he took the risk and posted about his injury on social media because he wanted the university and the City of Edmonton to know about the attack.
“I had to post it to get a response from the university because people would want to ignore [my attack],” he said. “They would want to make it a minor case — it’s not a minor case.”
The student feels like in a sense, that both the university and the city have failed his trust because of a lack of security at LRT stations.
He feels like security on transit needs to be re-evaluated, as this isn’t the first time he has dealt with assault on transit. He says there have been many instances where he has been verbally harassed while taking the LRT.
“I’m used to it and others are used to it so I buried it, I tolerated it,” he said.
Something the student has picked up in his six years in Edmonton is the idea that it’s somewhat normal to feel unsafe on public transportation.
“People [have] suggested to not use the LRT at night — it’s common knowledge it seems like,” he said. “But public transit is still being used. Why not stop operating it if it’s so dangerous?”
“My friends’ parents give their children parking passes at the university, even if they live by transit stations, because they see [transit] as the last option.”
The student thinks the city owes university students a safe transit system when students, and especially international students, rely heavily on it.
He recalls that the city said it was adding more security to patrol the LRT back in March. The student said while this explains the security guard he saw at Corona Station, he doesn’t know if this increase in patrolling is effective as the man who yelled at him at Corona station was able to follow him on the train.
Before the incident, the student loved the idea of improving people’s quality of life, so much so that he majored in economics for three years and had applied for various internship positions within the public sector.
“I was passionate about public services and I believed public policies and administration could make the city better,” he said.
With the new Valley Line LRT project costing the city billions of dollars, the student hopes the city will consider what security measures need to be taken to make riders feel safe on this new line.
“Why not make sure people who use it are safe? That’s the minimum and most fundamental thing.”
The student also thinks the city failed the man who attacked him. To this day the student insists that the attack wasn’t an Asian hate crime, though it occurred during a time where these types of attacks have heightened.
Rather, he sees his attacker as someone who needs support, someone that the city and government have failed.
“I still sympathize with the man who attacked me… because the government doesn’t give enough resources to support marginalized groups,” he explained.
“I think society could do better to assist those who need help and resources.”
Living close to the U of A’s north campus, he said he often sees individuals who need assistance and social resources from the city and provincial government.
“I often see people talk to the air and punch the air,” he said. “But sometimes they’re not mad at the air, they’re sometimes aggressive at passengers who pass them.”
When he was in the hospital, the responding officers asked the student what he wanted to be done. Crying, the student told the police he wanted to be contacted by the university, but the police told him the LRT wasn’t campus property.
“I just wanted to be cared for by the university because the University of Alberta is the reason I chose to live in Edmonton,” he said.
As an international student, he feels like he has sacrificed so much to be a part of the U of A community. He hasn’t seen his parents since September 2019 and chose to stay in Edmonton during the pandemic because he wanted to continue his degree at the U of A.
When he first applied to university, the student had offers in both Australia and B.C. but chose the U of A, a decision he is now questioning as he finishes up his degree.
“I chose the U of A because I thought it had a very good reputation for my academic program — social aspects were not my priority… I didn’t think it was that important,” he said. “But the social aspects, community cohesion, is actually the biggest thing.”
Campus security is now one of the social aspects the student considers crucial when looking at universities. The International Students’ Association (ISA) is currently talking to the university about campus security, which, according to the student, seems to be the only meaningful result of his injury.
He noted that this isn’t the first time student security has been compromised at the U of A. He mentioned the HUB Mall shooting in 2013 and another time a student was also stabbed at the LRT in 2018, an attack that occurred at the South Campus LRT Station.
As the U of A rises by 20 spots in global university rankings, the student isn’t sure how long this trend will last given what he sees as a systemic campus security problem.
“The university is so proud to say the university moved up 20 places in the world ranking, but in the future, I’m not sure if it is sustainable,” he said. “They will fail to attract brilliant students to the community…. [because] the university [fails] to protect students who attend this institution.”
After the attack, U of A President Bill Flanagan put out a statement that included an explanation that, for incidents occurring on LRT stations near campus, the University of Alberta Protective Services (UAPS) only assists ETS and EPS.
In his statement, Flanagan also said he is “deeply concerned,” by the attack.
“The safety and wellbeing of our students, faculty and staff is our top priority,” Flanagan said.
Still, the student doesn’t understand why UAPS doesn’t respond to incidents happening so close to campus, especially when their office is close to the LRT station.
“EPS and UAPS, what is the purpose of them to exist — to protect students and citizens,” he said. “But which one is more available to students? Which one is closer?”
“When I pushed the button, I thought UAPS would come,” he said.” It’s reasonable — it’s not a ridiculous ask [to have UAPS respond].”
The student is also questioning the harsh boundaries the university and the city draw between what is campus and public property, something he thinks shouldn’t be so black and white.
“[The LRT station] isn’t really off campus, it’s near campus,” he said. “It’s ridiculous to say it’s not on campus. That narrative is too harsh. [It’s used] to escape responsibilities.”
He hopes his experience will be the ignition behind the university and UAPS reviewing their campus security policies and procedures.
“They could cover [the LRT] as long as they care about it — if they care about students who use transit,” he said.
The student wants to make clear that he’s not blaming UAPS for not responding. Rather, he thinks proactive steps need to be taken to ensure UAPS is maintaining campus security and actually keeping students safe on and around campus.
“UAPS procedures need to be reviewed, otherwise they don’t really need to exist.”
In response to the idea that UAPS should respond to incidents happening at university transit stations, UAPS Director Marcel Roth said in a statement to The Gateway that protecting campus is a partnership and transit stations are ultimately out of UAPS’ jurisdiction.
“Community safety is a shared goal, so UAPS engages regularly with our partners in ETS and EPS, providing support related to nearby transit stations when requested — but these areas are the property of the City of Edmonton and are therefore outside of our jurisdiction,” Roth said.
“Again, that’s why it’s important for anyone in an emergency situation to call 911 immediately to ensure that the most applicable emergency response team will be able to attend as quickly as possible.”
While the student hopes the university and city will learn from his attack, the lack of help he received from other train passengers and what he perceives as a lack of campus security has the student wishing he chose a different university six years ago.
“Why do [international] students come to this city? For personal and professional development? There are more job opportunities in Calgary and Toronto,” he said. “[They come] to study, for the undergraduate student experience and [the university] doesn’t protect [students] safety. They don’t promote students to be humble, to be supportive, to not be a bystander. They all failed. Nothing can be worse than that.”
“I think I made the wrong decision, I shouldn’t have chosen the U of A.”
The student’s Facebook post, which is now taken down, received thousands of likes and hundreds of comments from U of A community members sending their deepest condolences — a 360 from what he experienced the night of the attack.
The student is grateful for the concern people have shown for his health and shared that even two professors reached out to see if he was okay. He said he has gotten a lot of support from both the international student and Chinese student communities. However, he said he feels a bit of pressure to respond to everyone.
“People have been pressuring me when I need more time to heal and move forward from this incident,” he said.
He also hopes that people remember the original reason he posted on Facebook: to spread awareness about the lack of security he sees on the LRT and on campus.
“The people who supported me on the internet make me feel warm, but they should care about what [needs to be done]… I want a solution to improve public security at the City of Edmonton and university campuses,” he explained. “That’s the reason I shared [my story] with social media.”
The student is set to get his stitches out in about 10 days. But even as his arm heals, he’s not sure when he can return back to his normal routines.
“Until now I still feel nervous to be in public alone,” he said. “I had a membership with a gym that is open 24-hours. I [used to] walk to the gym sometimes at 9 p.m. or 12 a.m to get my workout done before I sleep. Now I barely have a normal life. I don’t even want to go out alone even when it’s daytime.”
However, he plans to keep pushing through and hopes he can get some counselling sessions. So far he has met with the Dean of Students André Costopoulos for student support resources offered by the U of A.
“I feel like the best way to recover and get back to normal is to continue staying alive,” he said.
Set to graduate this June, the student is planning to attend grad school in a different city. He said it’s been suggested by police that he learn self-defence or martial arts to protect himself, but he’s not sure if he’ll pursue that avenue in the future.
“I don’t think it’s something residents shouldn’t be expected to do,” he said. “[It seems like] if you’re not strong enough you deserve to be injured.”
Even though it’s been hard to share his story, he wants fellow university students to know how quickly their lives can change. He got to the LRT station around 9:05 p.m. and by 9:20 p.m. he was attacked.
“In about 10 minutes [of my ride], I saw blood on my left arm and on the University Station platform,” he said.
“I feel like I’m strong to speak out because I want people to know that dangerous incidents can happen so fast when you trust something and it fails.”