The Ottawa Redblacks football team has suspended player Chris Larsen over his alleged involvement in an assault on Toronto Island Saturday during which police said homophobic slurs were hurled at the victim.
“Late last night, we were made aware of social media allegations of an assault by a group of individuals that included Chris Larsen and immediately commenced an investigation which is ongoing,” Redblacks CEO Mark Goudie said in a statement issued on the team’s website Wednesday evening.
“We are particularly sorry for the trauma caused to the 2SLGBTQ + community,” Goudie added.
Larsen was drafted in the 2019 CFL draft, but had not appeared in a game with the Redblacks, the statement said.
Toronto police are investigating the incident at Hanlan’s Point as an aggravated assault.
They say a 24-year-old man and a 27-year-old woman were walking to the ferry docks when they became involved in a disagreement with a group. A man from that group “made homophobic comments” and two men from the group assaulted the 24-year-old, who suffered significant injuries.
Toronto police said the Hate Crime Unit has been notified and is supporting officers from 52 Division with the investigation.
“This remains an active investigation and extensive inquiries are being carried out including scouring for video, recovering evidence and speaking to witnesses to establish the motive,” police said in a release.
A GoFundMe campaign organized by friends for the victim labelled the incident a “queer-bashing,” and identifies the victim as a member of Toronto’s LGBTQ community.
In a statement on Instagram, Pride Toronto issued a community alert about the “vicious attack.”
“These kinds of attacks highlight why it is important that Pride Toronto brings awareness of homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, in our community,” the statement reads. “It is heartbreaking to hear this happened during Pride Month — an attack on one is an attack on all.”
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Toronto police spokesperson Caroline de Kloet said “it would not be appropriate” for police to confirm the victim’s identity, nor to respond to online speculation about those who’ve been alleged to be involved in the case.
The victim declined to be interviewed by the Star about their experience.
Others have weighed in, including Toronto city councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam.
“This is a horrifying act of homophobic violence,” Wong-Tam wrote on Twitter. “There is much work to do still and this is a poignant reminder of why Pride is political. Sending community care.”
Ontario Liberal Party leader Steven Del Duca also spoke out about the incident, saying it is “clear there is a problem with hatred in Ontario right now, and there needs to be a broader discussion on how we can address it.”
Toronto Mayor John Tory issued a statement Wednesday evening on the assault.
“I am very disturbed at the series of events we are seeing close at hand in recent weeks which feature acts of hatred and hate speech,” he said. “There is absolutely no place for homophobia in our city. It’s time to once again say an emphatic ‘no’ to this hateful violence.”
Toronto police added that its LGBTQ2S+ liaison officer has been actively engaging with the community on the case.
“The Toronto Police Service understands that incidents of this nature cause concern in LGBTQ2S+ communities,” noted the police statement. “We want to assure everyone that our investigators are working hard to determine if this was a hate crime and identify the suspects involved.”
With files from Akrit Michael
Jenna Moon is a breaking news reporter for the Star and is based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @_jennamoon
Jason Miller is a Toronto-based reporter for the Star covering crime and justice in the Peel Region. Reach him on email: [email protected] or follow him on Twitter: @millermotionpic
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