Three theatres in Canada's Greater Toronto Area reportedly playing Hindi movies were evacuated after masked men sprayed an "unknown substance" in the air earlier this week, as per police and media reports. The people in the theatres were evacuated and some were treated for exposure after the incident, CBC News.
According to police, one such incident occurred at a cinema complex in Vaughan, when people started coughing after two men in masks and hoods sprayed an "unknown, aerosol-based, irritating substance into the air". At least 200 people were inside when a Hindi film was playing at the time, said the York Regional Police.
Although no serious injuries were reported, several people were evacuated and treated for exposure to be substance. Meanwhile, the suspects fled the scene before the police arrived. One of the suspects was described as a Black man with a light skin tone and a medium build wearing a black medical mask, while the second man was described as brown with a light skin tone wearing a black sweater.
Investigation launched into the incident
Toronto police said officers similarly got a call on Tuesday night about someone setting off a "stink bomb" in a theatre at Scarborough Town Centre. The theatre was evacuated and no injuries were reported, police said.
The three incidents occurred within less than three hours on the same day, and police are investigating whether these cases are linked with each other. York police say they are liaising with both Peel and Toronto police about the spraying incidents.
No arrests have been made yet and it is yet to be determined if they constitute as hate crimes. "It is unknown at this time if any other incidents are connected but our investigators are aware of those incidents that took place in York Region and Toronto," they said in a statement.
'Too early to call them hate crimes'
Sergeant Clint Whitney said the investigation was in its early stages and it could not be decided if the incidents were hate crimes. “There is no obvious indication that this is a hate-motivated crime, but we have notified our Hate Crime Prevention Unit as a precaution and they will be involved in the investigation,” he said.
Cineplex said it was working "closely with local authorities" investigating the incident. "Our primary focus and commitment is the safety and well-being of our guests and our team," Michelle Saba, a spokesperson for Cineplex, said.
This comes amid a major diplomatic spat between India and Canada over the killing of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, which has raised concerns over the safety of Hindu Canadians living there.
(with inputs from PTI)