UPDATE: 10 a.m.
The GoFundMe for an international student attacked at a Kelowna bus stop has grown past its $10,000 goal.
Gagandeep Singh, 21, was assaulted after exiting a city bus to return home from a grocery trip.
Aman Hundal is a member of the Sikh community and connected with Gagandeep following the attack.
“We’re still trying to get the information together because I met Gagandeep today. He’s laying on his bed, he can’t speak. It’s all secondhand from his friends who went to the scene.”
Hundal relayed what he’s been told to Capital News.
“From what we understand, he was coming back from buying groceries and he was heading home around 10:30 at night. On the bus there were a number of Caucasians, I think they were coming back from a St. Patrick’s event and maybe they had consumed alcohol, but we can’t confirm that… They were throwing a wig around on the bus and twice they threw the wig at him.”
Gagandeep then asked the group to leave him alone, stating he would call the police if they wouldn’t stop bothering him.
“When the bus stopped at the McCurdy stop, where the Brick and Mr. Lube are, he got off the bus with his groceries and he started walking. He walked about 50 feet away, then all of a sudden this group of 15 to 20 people came up and they attacked him.”
Gagandeep was kicked and beaten before having his turban ripped from his head, according to Hundal.
“They took his turban off and he’s got long hair, probably two to three feet long. They grabbed his hair and started dragging him like a dog.”
Hundal noted that the group wasn’t just men, saying a few women were a part of the incident.
Although emergency crews responded and Gagandeep was taken to hospital, he received no treatment due to his lack of health coverage as an international student.
“He went to KGH and they quickly assessed him and then he left because he has no health insurance. This is the other sad part of the story, international students have to pay $75 a month for health insurance. Some of the students can’t do that because they can’t afford it.”
The extent of Gagandeep’s injuries is unknown, but the GoFundMe will help to cover medical expenses through recovery.
As a member of the Sikh community himself, Hundal says it hurts to know his brother was attacked.
“Especially on the day of St. Patrick’s. A lot of members of our community, the kids that go to school here in Kelowna, my kids they wear green to school. We’re trying to recognize and celebrate different ethnicities and nationalities and diversity. You can look at Orange Shirt Day. There’s a lot of programs and things that we do in society, and it’s sad to even when in 2023 folks are being picked on based on how they look.”
The funds raised will also be used to look at flying Gagandeep’s parents in from India to support him in his recovery.
An alleged assault on an international student, where his turban was ripped off, is being deemed a racially motivated attack by the Sikh community.
The incident happened at a Kelowna bus stop late on Friday (March 17), when the 21-year-old man was reportedly bullied while riding a BC Transit bus.
When he got off the bus, he was struck from behind and assaulted, said the Kelowna RCMP.
“He received injuries to his chest, mouth, arms and legs after he was punched and kicked numerous times by 10 to 12 white males, while they made remarks about his Dastaar (turban),” said the World Sikh Organization (WSO) of Canada in a statement after the incident.
The organization said that the student then had his turban removed and was dragged to the ground by his hair.
The young man was taken to hospital by ambulance.
“The WSO is deeply concerned by the brutal assault on a Sikh international student in Kelowna. We request the Kelowna RCMP to investigate this as a hate crime,” stated the WSO.
BC Transit said that they are aware of the incident and are cooperating with the RCMP, but as the investigation is ongoing cannot comment on specifics.
“Incidents of this nature are rare on BC Transit buses and at bus stops, we take reports of inappropriate and illegal behaviour within our systems very seriously”
The majority of buses in the BC Transit fleet have closed-circuit television cameras. BC Transit is not able to confirm if the bus that was involved in this incident was equipped with a camera.
The transit authority also said that all busses have operator emergency notification protocols and enhanced radio communication in addition to partnerships with first responders that ensure rapid responses to transit-related incidents
The Kelowna RCMP said that they are investigating the incident as a top priority.
“[We] take this very seriously and are concerned that this type of crime has happened in our city,” said Const. Mike Della-Paolera with the Kelowna RCMP.
No arrests have been made in relation to the incident at this time but the investigation is ongoing, said Della-Paolera.
Anyone who witnessed the assault or has dash cam footage in the area around the time of the attack is asked to contact the Kelowna RCMP.