Racist messages sent to Chilliwack restaurant owners

'We are actively investigating the complaints,' says an RCMP spokesperson.

Chilliwack RCMP are consulting the hate crime unit after two separate Chilliwack restaurant owners received emails with racist overtones in the past week.

“We are actively investigating the complaints,” said RCMP Const. Tammy Hollingsworth.

The first time was on Feb. 28 after the owner of the Bay Leaf restaurant received a very disturbing email.

The chilling message was from someone who claimed they were “well-connected” and warned the restaurant owner to “leave” Chilliwack because it didn’t need people from India or Surrey to “pollute” it.

The message was sent from a hushmail.com account said in part: “We do not want your people in Chilliwack. Your business is never going to succeed here no matter the price, the advertising you invest in, nothing. Chilliwack is not a place for you.”

There was a history of incidents, say police.

“The restaurant owner indicated that he’d had eggs thrown at his house in the past, and animal bones left on his doorstep, but he had just passed it off as the work of kids.

“He didn’t think anything of it until he received this email,” said the officer.

RCMP have opened a file in the wake of the two incidents and are consulting the Hate Crime unit “for their expertise” in this area.

Bayleaf owner Sumit Gulati, who goes by the nickname Lucky, told The Progress he has received 400 calls and emails of support since the incident.

“A lot of people have called to say they don’t like that this happened to me. They are saying, ‘We are with you’ and that is a good thing.

In the wake of the massive outpouring of support and media coverage, the anonymous letter writer emailed RCMP again to apologize, claiming “the idiotic and hateful” message was because he or she was also a local restaurant owner who was trying to eliminate the competition.

He or she claimed they were having “a very bad day,’ and had some mental health issues, but wondered what law had been broken.

But Gulati said he’s now not so sure of the letter-writer’s sincerity.

A second report was received RCMP on March 3 from the owner of another Indian restaurant in Chilliwack, the Shandhar Hut, indicating that he’d received the exact same type of disturbing email.

Again the community’s outpouring of support has been very heartening, as evidenced by the Facebook page message from the owners, sincerely thanking everyone who has shown support.

“We have had the privilege of raising our three children and running a successful business in this amazing community of Chilliwack and plan on continuing to do so,” the message from the Atti family said. “We just want to say: we could not have setup shop in a better community. We absolutely love the people of this city and are so honoured to feel so welcomed among the majority of the people we share this community with. Much love and respect to you all!”

Cash Mob Chilliwack organizer Scott McVetty said they are still trying to put together an impromptu Cash Mob night on Friday to support the local Chilliwack restaurants. Follow the matter on their Facebook page, Cashmob Chilliwack.

“We don’t want the voice of one person like that representing us as a whole,” McVetty said.

UFV president Mark Evered said his reaction, which was one of shock, was the same as everyone’s that he spoken to in the wake the intolerant emails.

“I think it’s a good sign that we are shocked by something like this, which was so overt and blatant,” he said.

This kind of hurtful, and unbridled racism is not “an attitude that characterizes Chilliwack,” despite the email-writer’s claims to the contrary.

“It’s important that we send a strong signal to say this is totally inappropriate and unacceptable,” said Evered.

“Chilliwack is a welcoming place that embraces people of all nationalities, backgrounds and beliefs. This is a reminder that we have to be vigilant against this type of attack.”

When he was told about the tidal wave of support received by the restaurant owners, Evered was pleased to hear about the community support.

“That’s the message we need to focus on here,” he said.

In terms of possible charges, or who it was that sent the racist emails, RCMP don’t have those details available.

“It’s too early in the investigation to say where we’re going with this yet,” Cpl. Hollingsworth said.

Police said they won’t have more information until the email-writer’s identification is confirmed.

“That’s when we’ll have a better idea of where we sit with this,” said Cpl. Hollingsworth.

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

twitter.com/chwkjourno

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