A community rallies around a Chinatown small business owner who is recovering from an unprovoked attack following an incident he says has nothing to do with him.
Phillip Chan says he was in his store, Crimson Teas on Spadina Avenue, when he answered a knock on the back door just after 5 p.m. on April 12. A young man, possibly a student, asked him out and it was then he said he was ambushed and violently assaulted by him and two others. Chan says he was dragged to the ground and beaten, leaving him with a broken lower back and head injuries.
“The only thing I remember is like being punched in the face and then my glasses flew off,” Chan recalled. “There was a lot of kicking in my head…right now it’s so hard for me to stay focused and remember things.”
The experience left him with lasting wounds, both physical and psychological.
“I keep doubting myself…did I make a stupid mistake, did I make a big mistake by trusting people too much,” Chan says. “If I refused to go out this afternoon, I would probably avoid it.”
Chan believes the attack was in retaliation for an incident that occurred in the alley behind his store six days prior. Surveillance footage shows someone smashing the windshield of a parked car that was blocking the road. Chan thinks the car probably belonged to one of his attackers and they assumed he was responsible for the damage to their vehicle.
“When I first watched the footage, it was like having an out-of-body experience,” Chan said of reviewing security camera footage of the attack with CityNews. “It’s scary because I have no recollection, no recollection of that process.”
Crimson Teas has been in business since 2015 and is a favorite among students at nearby University of Toronto.
Many rallied behind Chan, leaving messages of support on his GoFundMe page. He reluctantly set it up with encouragement from the community to help it recover from the onslaught and business impacts of the pandemic. The fundraising goal of $60,000 was met and surpassed in just three days.
“Asians – we are known to be afraid of losing face,” he says. “It’s probably not a big deal, but for me just getting over it is a big thing.”
Toronto police say they are investigating the incident, but neither they nor Chan believe the attack was motivated by hate.
“I don’t think it’s racing related at all. I believe it was just young people at that stage, at the college stage – there’s a lot going on in their lives and sometimes they probably don’t make the right decisions.
Chan says he hopes that by sharing his story, it will help bring about positive change and give hope to others.
“I wanted to let other business owners like me know that there is hope in humanity…that our city is great, that our university is world-class, the best,” he says. “But there are also issues where I hope the city, the police and also the university will work harder to make this place safer for everyone.”