Metro Vancouver transit police are investigating a racist confrontation between a white woman and a senior Filipino couple aboard the city’s SkyTrain this week that was captured on camera by multiple witnesses.
The three passengers involved in the heated exchange were travelling on the Millennium Line train heading towards Brentwood Town Centre at approximately 2 p.m. local time on Monday.
The disturbance began when the woman told the Filipino couple they were speaking too loudly, according to Paula Correa, a witness who filmed the argument on her phone.
“One of the first things I heard her say was, ‘Oh, you’re just a stupid [expletive] Filipino,’” Correa told CTV Vancouver on Wednesday. “There was swearing.”
In the video Correa later posted to Facebook, the woman can be heard hurling offensive language at the Filipinos.
“Go back to the f---ing Philippines,” the woman shouts at one point.
The man apologized to the woman for their volume and explained to her that people speak loudly in the Philippines, Correa recalled. The woman is later seen in the video calling their explanation an “excuse” in a mocking tone to other passengers sitting nearby.
The quarrel became more heated with other riders joining in to defend the couple on the train, Correa said. At one point, the woman told the couple to “learn how to speak English” despite the fact that they were responding to her in that language.
“Everything she was saying was ridiculous," Correa said. "The couple was replying to her perfectly fine."
Another passenger, Ashley Klassen, also recorded the dispute on her cellphone and uploaded it on social media. Her video has been shared hundreds of thousands of times online.
“It was a very eyeopening experience,” Klassen said. “To see something like that in such a public explosion really just made me aware of what it is that different cultures experience when they come to a different country.”
During the altercation, one rider pressed the train’s yellow emergency strip to alert transit police officers but the woman had already exited the train before they arrived. Metro Vancouver transit police said they have since identified the suspect as a 75-year-old New Westminster resident.
“She is known to police for documented anger-related issues in the past but there is nothing documented that would indicate there is a concern for public safety,” transit police said in a news release.
Transit police will be conducting interviews with witnesses who recorded the incident and said they plan to find the woman to give her a warning about her behaviour. Although the confrontation was offensive, officials said the only charge that may be applicable in this case is causing a disturbance.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Nafeesa Karim and Penny Daflos