A Toronto police investigation has concluded that an incident reported by an 11-year-old girl who claimed her hijab was cut by a scissors-wielding man as she walked to school did not happen.
On Monday, police said their investigation had concluded, with no charges laid and no consequences for the girl.
“We investigated in a very thorough manner, we put together all the evidence that we gathered … we came to the conclusion that what was described did not happen,” police spokesman Mark Pugash told CityNews on Monday.
“If you’re presented with what are very serious allegations, you investigate them, you take them at face value until you have reason to believe otherwise.”
Pugash did not give details on what evidence they uncovered in their investigation or whether the girl admitted to lying. However, he said video obtained by officers was part of the investigation.
He also said police did not arrange the news conference on Friday and it is something the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) would need to address.
“We were not involved in that decision,” he said.
TDSB spokesman Ryan Bird said school board officials are “very thankful that this assault did not in fact happen,” but won’t be commenting further.
The alleged incident captured national attention after it was reported Friday and drew public condemnation from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.
The Prime Minister’s officer released the following statement on Monday afternoon:
“We have seen an unfortunate pattern of increased hate crimes in past months directed towards religious minorities, particularity towards women. We need to take this issue extremely seriously as this pattern is a warning sign of increased intolerance. We are a country that defends freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and people’s rights to go to school without being fearful or harassed. This is fundamental to who we are.”
“We would direct all the questions on the investigation to the Toronto Police Service. We are thankful and relieved that this incident did not take place.”
The Toronto District School also released a statement:
“On Friday morning, Toronto Police tweeted about an initial report of an assault at the school involving a man cutting off a student’s hijab. As a result, a TDSB spokesperson was dispatched to the school, where multiple media outlets were already present and wanting to speak to the student and/or her family. At no time, did the TDSB call a press conference, however spokespeople from the TDSB and Toronto Police made themselves available to answer any questions. This was done inside the school due to the bad weather outside. After expressing concern that they were going to be approached by media outside while trying to leave, as well as a concern that no members of the community be subject to the alleged perpetrator, the family was asked if they would like to join the TDSB spokesperson as she spoke to media. The family members said they would speak to media and it was our understanding that this happened after, not before, they provided statements to police. Once again, we are very thankful that this assault did not in fact happen. Our motivation for commenting on the issue at the time was only out of compassion, care, concern and support — as did many elected leaders nationally, provincially and locally via interviews or social media.”
The girl said she was walking to Pauline Johnson Junior Public School, near Birchmount Road and Sheppard Avenue East, with her younger brother when a man came up behind her, pulled off her jacket hood, and started cutting the bottom of her hijab.
She had said the man ran off but returned a short time later and once again started cutting her hijab from behind. The girl said that when she turned to confront him, the man smiled and ran away.