A suspect has been charged in the stabbing of a professor and two students during a class on gender issues at Canada’s University of Waterloo in what police are calling a hate-motivated attack.
Waterloo regional police said Geovanny Villalba-Aleman, an international student who had been studying at the University of Waterloo, faces three counts of aggravated assault, four counts of assault with a weapon and two counts of possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose.
“The accused targeted a gender studies class and investigators believe this was a hate-motivated incident related to gender expression and gender identity,” Waterloo police said in a statement on Wednesday.
A 38-year-old female professor, a 20-year-old female student and 19-year-old male student were sent to hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries after the attack late on Wednesday. About 40 students were in the class at the time.
Nick Manning, associate vice-president of communications for the University of Waterloo, said the suspect graduated from the university at the end of the fall term in 2022.
Police say the accused was found in the building after the stabbing and arrested. He appeared in court for a bail hearing on Thursday.
Nick Manning, associate vice-president of communications for the University of Waterloo, said the suspect is a former student of the university.
Manning said the stabbing occurred in Philosophy 202, which, according to the university website, focuses on “gender issues”.
A website description of the course said it “will examine the construction of gender in the history of philosophy through contemporary discussions. What is gender? How do we ‘do’ gender? How can we ‘undo’ gender – and do we want to?”
“Our entire community is really concerned that this would happen here. It’s a big shock,” Manning told reporters.
Police have said that the attacker’s motives were unclear, but Canada has a history of gender-motivated attacks.
In 1989, Marc Lépine killed 14 women, and injured 14 more people, before killing himself at a Montreal engineering school. In a suicide note, he professed hatred for feminists. “Feminists have always enraged me,” he wrote. The day of the attack, 6 December, is now commemorated as a national day of remembrance and action on violence against women.
In September of 2019, another man killed 10 people in Toronto when he drove a van on to the city’s streets. The man, Alek Minassian, later told police he saw the murders as an act of retribution against women who had ignored him. The incident drew focus on the online community of men who describe themselves as “incels” – involuntary celibate – and their hatred towards women. There have been similar misogynistic attacks in the United States.
Yusuf Kaymak, a student at University of Waterloo, told CTV News he was in the class.
“I ran out, and after we went outside, there was a kid that was stabbed. He was bleeding [from] his arm. I don’t know what happened to the professor,” he said.
Kaymak said about 40 students were in the class at the time.
Classes scheduled for Wednesday evening in Hagey Hall, where the attack took place, were canceled, but all other campus operations will proceed as usual, the university said in a tweet.
“Our first thoughts, of course, go to the students who are in the class and have turned immediately to making sure in addition to supporting the police inquiry,” Manning said.
In a written statement, the prime minister, Justin Trudeau, called the stabbings “horrifying and unacceptable”.
“This type of violence must always be condemned. Our thoughts are with the professor and two students who were injured,” he said.
Associated Press contributed reporting