Youths charged in August assault

Police have now laid charges in an assault on a Vietnamese grandmother in Pembroke in August.

Police announced Monday afternoon that the Crime Unit of the Upper Ottawa Valley (UOV) detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) has laid charges against three young people in relation to an assault that took place on August 20, 2020 in Pembroke.

That evening officers responded to a report that an elderly woman had been struck with a rock at her residence on Isabella Street in Pembroke. The victim was treated in hospital and later released.

As a result of the investigation, a 12-year-old and two 13-year-olds have each been charged under the Criminal Code with one count of assault with a weapon.

The names of the young persons cannot be released under the provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

The accused are scheduled to appear at the Ontario Court of Justice – Youth Division – on November 5, 2020. 

Police say that as part of the investigation, the UOV OPP Crime Unit did examine any role that race may have played in the incident.

“The OPP Hate Crimes/Extremism Unit was consulted and it was determined that, while there may have been a racial aspect to the situation, it was determined not to be a motivating factor in the incident.”

The attack generated significant discussion in the upper Ottawa Valley.

Cindy Tran, a young journalist entering a Master’s program this fall, wrote a lengthy and widely shared blog post identifying the victim of the attack as her grandmother, Thi Nga Doan, a survivor of the Vietnam war who turned 80 last March.

“To me and my siblings she is ba – meaning maternal grandmother in Vietnamese.”

“She raised my mother alone and brought her to Canada for what they hoped would be a better life.

“She has helped my mother raise five children without my biological father. She is the picture of resilience. She does not deserve this,” Tran wrote.

“It’s shocking that a town that marches for Black Lives Matter still breeds hate toward people of colour.”

Tran said her grandmother was the only one at home when a group of teens started “aggressively banging on our front door” on August 20.

When she opened the door, her grandmother was confronted by a group of teenage boys who began verbally abusing her and throwing eggs at the house.

“The part that makes me the most upset is that a teenager, probably no more than 15-17 years old threw a stone and it hit my grandmother’s left cheekbone. Bruising her eye. Rendering her blind for a few hours.”

Since reporting the incident to the police that night, Tran said the boys had returned twice, “once to egg the house again, and another to bang on the door.”

“This has been the most extreme case of racism that my family has endured.”

Tran said she holds the community of Pembroke “accountable in every way.”

“I do not condemn the people in this town who are striving to be better but these actions are a reflection of this little town of 16,000 people.

“There are parents who still believe in White Supremacy, in slavery, in discrimination.

“We POC (people of colour) are not doing anything harmful. My parents moved to this country for a better life but here we are in 2020 moving backwards more than we are going forward.”

Pembroke Mayor Mike Lemay responded with a statement that reading about the attack left him “incredibly disheartened, saddened, and angered.”

“I strongly condemn the actions of the individuals involved, whose conduct is detrimental to the city we are working to create,” he said at the time.

“The City of Pembroke has made a commitment to be a welcoming community for all and continues to work on policies and practices to ensure the voices of people of colour are heard and are included in the work we do.”

“Racism has no place in our society but is unfortunately prevalent across the world, and, as this incident and Cindy’s described encounters show, is sadly prevalent in Pembroke as well,” he added.

“This incident demonstrates the need for us to work harder to promote welcoming values and show our residents that acceptance of all is the only way forward.”


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