Toronto police are searching for a man who allegedly cut a young girl's hijab with a pair of scissors on her way to school.
"I felt really scared and confused", she told reporters Friday afternoon, recounting the traumatic incident in a Scarborough neighbourhood near Birchmount Rd. and Sheppard Ave. E.
Spokeswoman Katrina Arrogante says the man cut off the girl's hijab and fled the scene. She felt someone behind her pull the hood of her winter jacket down and when she turned around and the man ran off. Khawlah and her brother chose to cross the road and walk with a bigger group of people.
She said, "Someone insulted me by cutting my hijab".
"We don't know what motivated the attack", Toronto police Constable David Hopkinson said initially but authorities later said the incident is being investigated as a hate crime.
The suspect has been described by police as Asian and appearing to be in his 20s, standing between five-foot-eight and six-foot, with a medium build, black hair, mustache and eye glasses.
Sidhu says when the girl turned to confront him, he ran away.
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Toronto District School Board spokesman Ryan Bird says staff contacted police and the girl's parents shortly after she arrived at school.
"She was courageous enough to confront the man, make some noise. and then proceed to walk with a bunch of other kids realizing there's safety in numbers", said Const. Jenniferjit Sidhu. He was last seen wearing glasses, a black hoodie and black trousers.
Khawlah - who appeared alongside her mother and her brother - said she is now afraid to walk to school, but was comforted by the support of her school and family.
"We are shocked to learn of this assault and we will be working closely with police to offer any assistance that we can", the TDSB said in a statement.
"I saw my sister and she was frightened and I was more frightened because I didn't know if she was injured or if he was going to hurt her", Mohammad Zakariya said.
Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne called the incident "cowardly act of hatred". "We must stand firm in our support to this young girl who was assaulted simply for wearing a hijab".
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau echoed a similar sentiment, stressing that this "is not who Canadians are". "Intolerance and hate of any kind, including islamophobia, has no place in our city, our province, or our country".