A three-year-old Edmonton boy and his family have been left shaken up after the child was taken hostage by an armed man at a downtown Canada Border Services Agency office.
Edmonton police said a 27-year-old man who didn’t know the family of the child was arrested and is charged with assault with a weapon, uttering threats and hostage-taking. He remains in custody.
The incident unfolded last Friday as Siska Mbaisa was attending an Immigration and Refugee Board hearing for her husband at the 104th Street CBSA office. Her three children waited in the lobby with a family friend.
In video footage captured by Mbaisa’s teenage daughter, an agitated man in the lobby is seen speaking incoherently to CBSA staff, who are on the other side of a counter shielded by plexiglass, for about five minutes.
The man demands to be let into the staff’s offices. Then, repeatedly, he asks: “You want to see the blood?”
“Just have a seat,” a staff member tells him.
The man then grabs three-year-old Katjavivi Tutjavi, holding a sharp object to the boy’s neck. The weapon can’t be seen in the video but witnesses told CBC News it appeared to be a knife.
Witnesses said the man held the boy against the counter while holding the weapon to his neck. On the video, the boy wails loudly for about one minute, above the screams of witnesses.
The video then comes to an abrupt end.
Prompted by Katjavivi’s cries, a commissionaire standing guard inside the hearing room rushed into the lobby. Witnesses said she took the child away from the man. The child had not been physically hurt.
His mother rushed out soon after.
“I didn’t even see the person, I just grabbed my baby,” Mbaisa told CBC Edmonton’s Radio Active in an interview airing Tuesday.
“There was panic and crying and my son kept on repeating, ‘What is going on?’ and asking me, ‘Where’s daddy? Why is the man doing this?'” Mbaisa said. “I couldn’t even answer him I was so shocked.”
In an emailed response to questions, the CBSA said its first priority was to diffuse the situation and secure the area.
“The CBSA remains committed to ensuring the health and security of all persons on its premises,” the agency said in the emailed statement.
CBSA officials declined an interview and did not comment further on details of the incident.
Mbaisa said more needs to be done to keep people safe at immigration enforcement offices, including a full-time security guard stationed in the lobby.
Her husband, Nicklas Tutjavi, is facing deportation to Namibia, and Mbaisa plans to attend his next hearing at the CBSA office on Wednesday.
“I’m not feeling OK and the kids, they don’t want to see that place, but I have to be there for my husband,” she said.
Mbaisa said since the incident, Katjavivi has been nervous around men and can’t sleep without her holding him.
Her five-year-old son, who witnessed the attack, has been re-enacting the event with objects around the house like pencils, she added.
The children’s trauma has been compounded by the separation from their father, she said.
Mbaisa will be speaking at a vigil Tuesday evening to protest the separation of families like hers by removals. Other Edmonton families affected by possible deportations will also speak.
Members of the community are also calling for the child’s father to be released so the family can recover from the ordeal together.
The event starts at 6 p.m. at the Edmonton Intercultural Centre in the old McCauley School building at 9538 107th Ave.
You can listen to the interview on CBC Edmonton’s Radio Active at 5:05 p.m.