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Kelowna councillor ‘disappointed’ over lack of charges in Sikh student attack

Crown did not pursue RCMP recommended charges related to an assault in March 2023
Kelowna City Councillor Mohini Singh. (Photo contributed)

A Kelowna city councillor along with others in the community are still left with questions after learning that Crown Counsel is not pursuing charges related to an attack on an international student.

Mohini Singh is disappointed to hear that Crown does not believe a conviction will be reached despite RCMP recommending charges after a young Sikh man was assaulted after exiting a city bus on March 17, 2023.

The incident happened late that night at the McCurdy Road bus stop on Highway 97. Gagandeep Singh, 21 at the time, was assaulted by a group of people, had his turban ripped off and taken, and sustained multiple injuries while trying to get home with his groceries.

Councillor Singh said one of Crown’s guiding principles is a matter being of public interest.

“I think it’s important to send a message to society that an assault like this is not something that is acceptable. This is absolutely unacceptable behaviour.”

Singh said it doesn’t need to be the fullest extent of the law coming down on these young people, but bad actions should come with consequences.

News of the assault made headlines across B.C. and elsewhere in the country. Gagandeep’s story is also said to have made headlines in India, questioning the safety of international students coming to Canada.

“I believe Crown has a responsibility to look after the public interest and send a message that this kind of behaviour is intolerable,” said Singh. “These kids need to go through a restorative justice program or something to realize what they did was terrible.”

A friend of Gagandeep and a member of Kelowna’s Sikh community Manik Dhir said he’s dumbfounded that Crown isn’t following through with charges.

“What does this look like for others that are going to be taking the public transportation and, god forbid, encounter something like this? The message that we’re sending out here is that you can get away with an instance like this, and I think that’s the part that is really making people uncomfortable.”

Dhir added that although Gagandeep did not provoke the attack, he still feels embarrassed about what happened to him and has shyed away from speaking publicly for himself.

“We’re sending the wrong message to the public. We’re not sending the message of accountability.”

Professor of Law at the University of B.C. Emma Cunliffe explained what Crown considers for the public interest.

“It would be the consideration of matters such as equality, substantive equality is a factor that’s relevant there. In circumstances where an offence may technically have been committed by somebody whose offending was a product of their victimization, the public interest principle might be used not to proceed. Or where there are other mitigating circumstances around the offending that means it’s not appropriate to proceed with criminal charges against that offender.”

Cunliffe noted that these are just pieces of the whole picture, and may not be the reasoning in this particular case. Typically, Cunliffe said the charges aren’t pushed forward if Crown believes there is not enough evidence for a conviction.

Cunliffe added that the decision not to proceed does not dismiss the case altogether. The investigation could continue if a lack of evidence is cited but again noted that each case is very different.

Singh is thankful that Gagandeep has been able to put his life back together in Alberta, but the only person whose life seems to have been impacted was his, as a victim. She noted that the whole situation could have been much worse.

READ MORE: No charges 1 year after Kelowna bus stop attack on Sikh student

Brittany Webster

About the Author: Brittany Webster

I am a video journalist based in Kelowna and capturing life in the Okanagan
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