A community is rallying around a small Chinatown business owner recovering from an unprovoked attack over an incident that he says had nothing to do with him.
Phillip Chan says he was in his store, Crimson Teas on Spadina Avenue, when he answered a knock at the back door just after 5 p.m. on April 12. A young male, possibly a student, asked him to step outside and that’s when he says he was ambushed and viciously assaulted by him and two others. Chan says he was dragged to the ground and beaten, leaving him with a fractured lower back and head injuries.
“The one thing I can remember is like a punch on the face and then my glasses flew off,” recalls Chan. “There was a lot of kicking in my head … right now it’s so difficult for me to stay focused and remember things.”
The experience has left him with long lasting injuries, both physical and psychological.
“I keep self doubting myself … did I make some silly mistake, did I make some serious mistake in over trusting people,” says Chan. “If I refused to walk out that afternoon I probably would avoid it.”
Chan believes the attack was in retaliation for an incident that took place in the laneway behind his shop six days prior. Surveillance footage shows someone smashing the windshield of a parked car which was blocking the road. Chan believes the car likely belonged to one of his assailants and they assumed he was responsible for the damage to their vehicle.
“When I first looked at the footage, it was like having an out of body experience,” said Chan while re-watching security camera footage of the attack with CityNews. “It’s scary because I have no recollection, no memory of that process at all.”
Crimson Teas has been in business 2015 and is a favourite among students from nearby University of Toronto.
Many have rallied around Chan, leaving supportive messages on his GoFundMe page. He reluctantly set it up with some encouragement from the community to help him recover from the assault and the business impacts of the pandemic. The fundraiser’s goal of $60,000 was reached and exceeded in just three days.
“Asians — we are notorious for being afraid of losing face,” he says. “It’s probably not a big deal but for me just to overcome that is a big thing.”
Toronto police say they are investigating the incident, but neither they nor Chan believe the attack was in any way hate motivated.
“I don’t feel that this is race related at all. I believe it was just young people at this stage, university stage — there is lots going on in their life and sometimes they probably are just not making the right decisions.”
Chan says he hopes that by sharing his story it will help bring about some positive change and give others hope.
“I wanted to let other business owners like myself know that there’s hope in humanity … that our city is great, our university is world class, the best,” he says. “But there are also issues that I hope the city, the police and also the university will step up their efforts to make this place safer for everybody.”