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University of Waterloo stabbings a ‘senseless act of hate,’ police say after former student charged

A 24-year-old former international student has been charged in the stabbings Wednesday in a University of Waterloo, Ont., classroom in what is believed to be a hate-motivated incident targeting a gender-studies class, regional police said Thursday.

Waterloo regional police chief says it was a 'planned and targeted attack' in gender-studies class

Waterloo police find potential motive behind campus stabbing

3 hours ago

Duration 0:40

Chief Mark Crowell of the Waterloo Regional Police Service said the University of Waterloo stabbing suspect may have targeted a gender studies class as a hate-motivated action against the teaching of gender identity and related topics.

A 24-year-old former international student has been charged in the stabbings Wednesday in a University of Waterloo, Ont., classroom in what police believe was a hate-motivated incident targeting a gender-studies class.

Mark Crowell, chief of the Waterloo Regional Police Service, told a media briefing Thursday the "planned and targeted attack" was a "senseless act of hate."

Police said they're still investigating the incident, which sent three people to hospital, inside Hagey Hall. In the meantime, they've charged Geovanny Villalba-Aleman. Crowell said the accused has no criminal record.

According to police, "this was a hate-motivated incident related to gender expression and gender identity."

"It's sad and disturbing that this incident happened during Pride Month," Crowell told the media briefing, adding he hopes it encourages the community to "all come together."

The accused, a recent graduate, has been charged with:

  • Aggravated assault (three counts).
  • Assault with a weapon (four counts).
  • Possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose (two counts).
  • Mischief under $5,000.

Some 40 students were inside the classroom during the stabbings. A 38-year-old female professor from Kitchener and two students — a 20-year-old female and a 19-year-old male, both from Waterloo — were taken to hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries.

Crowell said a man who was not a member of the class entered around 3:30 p.m. ET and spoke with the professor "before attacking her with two large knives without provocation." Some people in the class tried to stop what was happening, while others fled the room, he said.

While students were attempting to escape, two students were stabbed and there was an attempt to stab a third student, who was not injured, Crowell said.

"The accused was located by police within the building and arrested," and appeared in court for a bail hearing Thursday after spending the night in custody. Crowell said the result of that hearing was not known at the time of the police update.

In-house alert system went off after stabbings

News of the charges comes after university officials said the in-house emergency alert system didn't work as expected after the stabbings.

Rebecca Elming, a university spokesperson, confirmed the WatSAFE app sent an alert to students 90 minutes after the incident.

She said a tweet from earlier in the day about testing the app was deleted to avoid creating confusion between the test and real alerts.

Nick Manning, associate vice-president of communications, said a "second look at our emergency notification systems" is needed.

"But as soon as we had official notification from our partners at the police, we were there notifying our community through other means, and we need to take a look at that that system to understand."

Supt. Shaena Morris of Waterloo police said the university's security response system was adequate when the stabbings happened.

"We were able to work together with the University of Waterloo Special Constable Service to make an immediate arrest on scene."

She confirmed no security staff were in Hagey Hall at the time of the stabbings.

"As is normal for any day on the university campus, we don't have a strong and super visible security presence. It wouldn't be normal for us to have a significant security presence on campus on any normal day — and this was any normal day."

Manning said it is too soon to speculate if an upgrade to security is needed.

"Of course, … it requires us to go away and think about and examine the way that we go about our daily business, but I think it's really important for us to think now about the supports for the students in the moment, the employees in the moment and take some time to reflect on what's happened and make a plan from there."

'Uptick in events' targeting LGBTQ community

Crowell spoke to reporters about a "small uptick in events" recently targeting the LGBTQ community in Waterloo region.

WATCH | LGBTQ activist says it's 'crucial' to discuss issues without fear of violence:

LGBT activist talks about the chilling effect of Waterloo's classroom stabbing

2 hours ago

Duration 1:01

Cait Glasson, an LGBTQ activist in the Kitchener-Waterloo region, says students should feel safe to discuss gender issues in the classroom and not controlled by violence.

Cait Glasson, an LGBTQ activist in the Kitchener-Waterloo region, said people in the community are reporting more cases of harassment and "being bothered on the street, and things like that."

She said students should feel safe to "talk about the issues that need to be talked about" without the fear of being controlled by violence.

Glasson said there are misconceptions and misinformation circulating about transgender people, such as children "getting puberty blockers like candy and surgeries all over the place," which leads people to believe untrue statements.

Stabbing incident 'broke my heart'

Aimée Morrison, an associate professor of English at the University of Waterloo, was off campus at the time of the stabbings. She told CBC Radio's As It Happens she knows the professor who was stabbed, and her colleague is traumatized and seeking privacy from the media.

Morrison said the incident makes teaching less safe for everyone.

"It broke my heart and it terrified me. This is the building that I work in. I teach in that classroom. I teach students similar materials. All of us are a lot less safe because of this," Morrison said Thursday.

Morrison said an arrest doesn't mean there's no longer any danger.

"It's very difficult to imagine going into a classroom and teaching some of these more difficult topics, or topics that the people outside of the classroom find controversial or dangerous, or that must be stopped," Morrison said.

"And to me, that is going to be the continuing tragedy of this."

LISTEN | Associate prof says Waterloo university stabbings 'terrified' her:

As It Happens6:35'It broke my heart and it terrified me,' University of Waterloo prof says of stabbings

Three people are in hospital and a man has been charged after what police say was a hate-motivated stabbing in a University of Waterloo gender-studies class on Wednesday. Aimée Morrison, an associate professor of English at the school, says this will make students feel unsafe discussing important, but controversial, topics in class. She spoke to As It Happens host Nil Köksal.

PM condemns 'absolutely despicable' incident

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted Thursday about the "horrifying and unacceptable" incident.

Yesterday’s stabbings at a gender studies class at the University of Waterloo are horrifying and unacceptable. This type of violence must always be condemned. Our thoughts are with the professor and two students who were injured.


In a subsequent tweet, he said it's "absolutely despicable" the stabbings have been considered hate-motivated.

"I strongly condemn this vile act. It is another reminder that we can never let misogynistic, anti-2SLGBTQI+ rhetoric escalate — because these words have real-life consequences."

The fact that the stabbings at the University of Waterloo were hate-motivated is absolutely despicable. I strongly condemn this vile act. It is another reminder that we can never let misogynistic, anti-2SLGBTQI+ rhetoric escalate – because these words have real-life consequences.


Dorothy McCabe, mayor of the City of Waterloo, also offered support for the victims.

"This was a very troubling & disturbing incident," her tweet said. "I'm relieved that the individual involved was quickly apprehended. Waterloo City Council & staff offer our support & hopes for a full recovery to those injured on UW's campus today."

Emmett MacFarlane, a professor of political science, weighed in on the immediate aftermath of the stabbings, criticizing the university's WatSAFE app.

"No emails were sent from central admin," his tweet said.

"The dean's office … issued conflicting emails, first telling people to leave the building, then telling them to lockdown in their offices. It is beyond me why the Executive Officer of one of the Faculties is the only one issuing messages in an emergency, and only to Arts faculty & staff. There should be a coordinated officer at the centre issuing texts, emails, etc. to *everyone* at the university."

MacFarlane is urging the university to take a serious look at their emergency alert system.


Aastha Shetty

CBC journalist

Aastha Shetty can be reached via email aastha.shetty@cbc.ca or by tweeting her at @aastha_shetty

With files from Antonia Reed

Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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