Steven Puhallo, Jordan Carr, and Taylor Verrall, members of Rishi Sharma’s campaign team, show their solidarity with Sharma (second from right) after an unidentified man hurled racial slurs at him Saturday. Puhallo and Verrall were also present during the incident Saturday night at the corner of Marigold Road and Interurban Road. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Steven Puhallo, Jordan Carr, and Taylor Verrall, members of Rishi Sharma’s campaign team, show their solidarity with Sharma (second from right) after an unidentified man hurled racial slurs at him Saturday. Puhallo and Verrall were also present during the incident Saturday night at the corner of Marigold Road and Interurban Road. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

BC Liberal candidate in Saanich South attacked with racial slurs

Rishi Sharma was putting up election signs when incident happened Saturday night

Saanich police continue to investigate an incident during which a Caucasian male hurled racial slurs at the candidate running for the BC Liberals in the riding of Saanich South.

Public relations officer Const. Markus Anastasiades said police are investigating the incident, reported Saturday evening. Rishi Sharma said he waas working with his brother Muneesh, putting up election signs at the corner of the Interurban Road and Marigold Road along with three Caucasian men, when a man accompanied by a woman hurled racial slurs at them.

“Anyone with information is asked to contact the Saanich Police,” said Anastasiades, who declined to comment on how many tips police received so far.

The incident has made provincial news and prompted questions about the political climate in British Columbia.

Sharma fears the current political climate in the United States has encouraged what he described as a “traumatizing” event.

“There are a lot of people paying attention to what is happening down south,” he said. “I think there is a lot of liberation for those who have hate to be able to communicate that hate. Particularly, when we are going through COVID-19 and the high anxiety and the stress of being stuck in your home and the fear, I think people are at a boiling point and this is where we really need to pay attention to those types of issues. There is just this freedom for hate right now.”

Sharma made those comments Sunday morning just hours after a man accosted the long-time Saanich resident and member of the Punjabi community. Two members of Sharma’s campaign team (Steven Puhallo and Taylor Verrall) and nearby resident John Juricic were with Sharma and his brother. The five men were working on election signs when the man pulled up in his vehicle.

“He was cursing, ‘you [expletive] East Indians, you guys are brutal, you guys are dumb,’” said Sharma. “It was pure hate, it was pure anger coming out of this guy. This was pure hate and anger towards East Indians, as he said.” The man also accused Indo-Canadians of being “worse than the Hell’s Angels” during the incident that lasted about a minute, said Sharma.

“I was not threatened by him,” he said. “I was threatened by the situation and what the outcome could have been. Somebody could have been seriously hurt.”

For Sharma, Saturday’s incident was not unfamiliar.

“My brother and I knew exactly what was happening… it was racial slurs,” he said.

What followed was a “pretty shocking, heartfelt, vulnerable conversation” about the incident among members of Rishi’s party. “Those who I was with had never experienced that before,” he said. “Everyone was ‘what the hell just happened,’ and I said, ‘it happens a lot.’”

RELATED: Horgan attempts to clarify ‘I don’t see colour’ debate answer with Twitter post

Sharma said he has been trying to raise awareness about equity, diversity, and inclusion. “If elected, I want to have an [equity] lens on every piece of legislation and policy coming forward,” he said.

“I don’t know why it happened to me, but it did and it was very unfortunate and shocking, considering all the way we have been trying to do to get rid of this garbage behaviour.”

Sharma described the man as a Caucasian man in his early 30s with brown hair and standing about 6’1” wearing a red or orange jacket with an unshaven appearance. He also wore a black bandana around his face, said Sharma, who described the man’s vehicle as a red car with four doors.

Sharma said the group did not the catch man’s licence plate.


Do you have a story tip? Email: vnc.editorial@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

BC Votes 2020