UPDATE, 1:48 p.m.: The Waterloo Regional Police Service have identified the assailant as 24-year-old Geovanny Villalba-Aleman, a graduate student at the University of Waterloo. The police said in a press release that Villalba-Aleman “targeted a gender-studies class and investigators believe this was a hate-motivated incident related to gender expression and gender identity.” He 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.
Three people were stabbed in a gender studies class at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, on Wednesday afternoon, including the class professor, whose identity the attacker confirmed before stabbing him. The wounds sustained by the professor and two students were not life-threatening, and all three are in the hospital, while the suspect was taken into custody.
The university’s student newspaper reported that, according to a student in the class, “a man of about 20-30 years of age” entered the classroom and “asked the professor what the class was about.” After the professor answered, the attacker closed the door, took out two knives, and began attacking the professor. A different student told the student paper that the assailant missed the professor and “ended up attacking one or two other people,” who were students.
“The guy basically walked in and asked the teacher if he was the professor. He said, ‘Yeah.’ Then he pulled out a knife, and after that, everybody just ran out,” another student in the room told Canada’s CTV. “I ran out, and after we went outside, there was a kid that was stabbed. He was bleeding [from] his arm.”
Other students have recounted receiving texts from friends warning them about a man seen wielding two blades “going around and attacking people,” prompting some students to barricade their classrooms during the attack.
At a news conference after the attack on Wednesday evening, the superintendent of the Waterloo Regional Police Service confirmed the assailant was a student at the university, but said that she couldn’t “speak to motive at this time” because the police were still investigating. But by Thursday afternoon, police confirmed that the attack was “a hate-motivated incident related to gender expression and gender identity.”
Indeed, the attack appears to have been specifically targeted; the class title, according to the student newspaper, was Philosophy 202: Gender Issues. The stabbing comes at a time of increasing animus toward feminism in some online spaces and among the weaponization of gender identity issues by rightwing politicians.
Aimée Morrison, an associate professor at the University of Waterloo, tweeted on Wednesday evening that if it’s found that the class was indeed targeted because of its subject, “then this is an ideologically driven hate crime. And it will need to be addressed as such.”
Teen Vogue reported that other Canadian professors have also responded to the attack with concerns about its motivations. A professor at Western University cited the incident and implored people to “remember that right wing culture war and transphobic propaganda is never just about discourse, debate, or the ‘potential for violence.’ It’s about *actual* violence.”
Jennifer Koshan, a law professor at the University of Calgary, said she was motivated to enter academia after the 1989 École Polytechnique anti-feminist massacre that left 14 women dead in Montreal. “I despair at the fact that although I’m nearing retirement, we still face this type of gender-based violence,” Koshan wrote in a tweet.