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Seneca College student alleges homophobic attack

Iranian refugee suffers neck wound amid flurry of slurs

UPDATE DEC 2 – The Seneca College student who suffered a neck wound amid a flurry of homophobic and racist slurs says he thinks the attack was spurred primarily by his race, rather than his sexuality. But, he says, the homophobic remarks he heard during the attack outed him to classmates and friends.

In a meeting with Seneca College officials on Nov 1, Mojtaba says “They asked me why I didn’t tell them earlier about my sexuality…. He didn’t call me, at the beginning, faggot or bitch. The reason we went for the fight was he said I have to go back to my country.

“I wasn’t out, but I’m out right now because everybody knows now,” adds Mojtaba. “At that time I didn’t want anybody to know about my sexuality.”

He says that on Nov 28, when he saw his alleged attacker, he decided to come out of the closet and talk to advocates and friends about the incident, before he spoke with media.

Meanwhile, the accused, 21-year-old Daniel DaSilva, has been suspened from the school.

“The suspension will be in place until the outcome of the review and police investigation have been completed,” wrote Seneca College spokesperson Chris McGrath in an email.

“Seneca does not condone violence of any sort and expects students to follow college policy,” according to the statement. “This includes the Student Rights and Responsibilities policy that outlines the mutual respect for the dignity and worth of each person in the Seneca community that is expected of our students.”

UPDATE NOV 30, 3:38pm –
Dean of Students Chris McGrath responded to Mojtaba’s comment about McGill in an email on her behalf, saying “There was certainly no intention to intimidate any of our students, and it is truly unfortunate if it was seen as such.” 

We do ask that students refrain from commenting on matters that are before the police and/or subject to an internal review,” he wrote. “It is, therefore, a normal procedure for us to ask students giving statements during a review to sign a standard non-disclosure form.”

“The college has taken the necessary steps to ensure the safety and security of the parties involved,” says McGrath. “These steps can include safety planning, counseling support, and where necessary suspension from our campuses.”

Mojtaba says he doesn’t feel college authorities are responding quickly enough to the altercation. He says the alleged perpetrator is still on campus and can walk by him any time. ““He’s free. Just walking around,” he says. He says the alleged attacker passed by him on Monday.

He says he wants the alleged attacker to no longer be permitted on Seneca campus. “This guy should be out of the school,” he says. “Other students are afraid of the situation right now.”

Chris McGrath is the Dean of Students at Seneca College. McGrath says the college is “conducting a general review into the matter with all the various parties involved to better understand what happened that day and also to ensure that the appropriate college policies and procedures were adhered to.”

He can’t speak to the incident in detail because the matter is being investigated by both police and the college, McGrath says. He adds that the school wants to “try to ensure that we maintain confidentiality throughout the entire process to ensure that the investigation and our review is as objective and complete as possible.”

“In our review we are looking at the entirety of the situation …to determine whether or not there were any violations of the college’s policy and procedures,” he says. “We have a very strong commitment to equity and diversity, and that we are taking the situation very seriously.”

Mojtaba says he doesn’t know how long the investigation will take. He also alleges that Karen McGill of the school’s Resolution, Equity and Diversity Committee, who is handling his case, told him not to speak to media and expressed disappointment that he had spoken with Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees director Arsham Parsi about the incident.

“This [Tuesday] morning she called me and she was upset,” he says. “She said, I told you, don’t contact anyone…she said, this is not a good situation right now and this is not what I asked you to do.”

McGill has so far declined to comment.

NOV 29, 2011 – An altercation at Seneca College involving homophobic and racist slurs ended on Nov 25 with a gay refugee from Iran suffering a cut to his throat.

Mojtaba, a 22-year-old Seneca student, came to Canada in 2009 with the help of the Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees. He says that on Nov 25 he was waiting for a friend outside the editing suite at the school when another student began to behave unusually.
“He came to me and said, ‘What are you looking at,’” says Mojtaba. “He punched [a nearby] telephone [booth] and he left.”
Mojtaba says he later saw the same man on the second floor. “He was whispering something to me,” he says. “He was not normal at that time.”
When he confronted the man, Mojtaba says, the man responded with racist and homophobic slurs. He says the man also called him “bitch” and “faggot.” “I don’t remember exactly what he said, but it was like . . . ‘leave here and go back to your fucking country.’”
Mojtaba says he followed the man down the hall and asked him to repeat himself.
“He pulled something out of his pocket,” says Mojtaba. He says he didn’t see what it was because the alleged attacker then pulled Mojtaba’s own hoodie over his face and began to hit him. Mojtaba says his throat was cut and that there was ink on his neck, leading police to believe he may have been cut with a pen.
Mojtaba says he tried to fight back. “I just wanted to protect myself . . . I just pulled his hair,” he says. He says the man told him, “You’re such a faggot, you’re such a bitch, you don’t even know how to fight.” Mojtaba says he was called “bitch” about 10 times. The alleged attacker is in his program and they have two classes together, he says.

Mojtaba was teken to hospital by ambulance and released a short time later.

Tony Vella of the Toronto Police Service says 21-year-old Daniel DaSilva was arrested a short while later in connection with the incident. He is charged with one count of assualt with a weapon. He was released at the scene pending a court appearance. Vella calls the incident an altercation that “turned into a fight.”