A recent graduate of the University of Waterloo in Ontario was charged with assault on Thursday, accused of stabbing a professor and two students in a gender studies class in what the police described as a “hate-motivated incident.”
Geovanny Villalba-Aleman, 24, an international student who graduated in 2022, was charged with aggravated assault, assault with a weapon, possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose and mischief, the Waterloo Regional Police said in a statement and a news conference. He appeared in court for a bail hearing on Thursday, where the police asked that he remain in custody.
It was not immediately clear if he had a lawyer.
“The accused targeted a gender-studies class and investigators believe this was a hate-motivated incident related to gender expression and gender identity,” the statement said.
The police said that on Wednesday, at about 3:40 p.m., about 40 students were in a classroom when the suspect came in and stabbed three people: a 38-year-old female professor; a 20-year-old female student and a 19-year-old male student. All three were taken to the hospital with “serious but non-life-threatening” injuries, the police said.
In what he described as a “shocking attack,” James Rush, a vice president of the university, said in a statement on Thursday that the stabbing took place during a lecture in a class called Philosophy 202 — Gender Studies. According to the university’s website, the class examines “the construction of gender in the history of philosophy through contemporary discussions.” Questions that the class raises include: “What is gender? How do we ‘do’ gender? How can we ‘undo’ gender — and do we want to?”
Chief Mark Crowell of the Waterloo Regional Police said at a news conference that the suspect had entered the classroom and spoke briefly to the professor, apparently to confirm the subject matter of the class. Then, he stabbed her with two knives, stabbed the other two students and attempted to stab a third.
Students in the room either fled or tried to intervene, throwing objects at the suspect, Chief Crowell said. Mr. Villalba-Aleman then left the room and tried to blend in as a victim, but witnesses identified him to the police. He was arrested in the building, he said.
The University of Waterloo has about 42,000 students and is one of the world’s best technology schools, requiring engineering and computer science students to mix studies with work. BlackBerry and other onetime start-ups have grown out of student projects at the university.
On its Facebook page on Thursday, the university said members of its community would gather on campus “in recognition of the shocking attack and trauma we endured yesterday.”
The Facebook page became a platform for people to vent their anger over the attack. Some questioned why the school’s emergency alert system had not worked and why students were allowed to attend classes in other parts of campus, uninformed that an attack had occurred. Others wrote about the attack in the broader context of gender-based violence, even before the police identified a motive.
Mr. Rush said in his statement that the campus’s emergency alert system, despite tests concluded the same day as the attack, “did not activate as quickly as we would all have expected.”
“I acknowledge that many people will speculate about the motivation for this attack; we must be patient and have confidence in the judicial process,” Mr. Rush said before the charges were announced. “I urge you to focus your energy on supporting one another during this very traumatic time.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned the attack on Twitter on Thursday, calling the stabbings “horrifying and unacceptable.”
There have been other gender-related attacks at Canadian universities, including in 1989, when a man who blamed women for his financial and career problems fatally shot 14 female students and employees at the École Polytechnique, an engineering school in Montreal.
Chief Crowell said the suspect aimed to “purposely target the subject matter of gender identity and gender expression.”
“We have seen and heard across Canada there is a disturbing trend” of hate-motivated incidents during Pride Month, he said.