Mina Barak, 23, said she arrived at de la Savane metro station to go to work as usual on Monday morning. She said she wanted to buy two tickets, but the automatic dispensing machine was out of order.
"It actually ate my money," she said, adding she then turned to the clerk in the ticket booth to explain, in English, what had happened.
She said the clerk told her she could not let her through the turnstile without calling her supervisor first.
"It doesn't work like that," Barak said the clerk told her, in French, when Barak persisted in asking her to either let her through the turnstile or check the machine.
She said the woman told her to speak French and said, 'Go back to your country.'
Barak said that remark left her furious, and she then used a nearby telephone to lodge a complaint.
Clerk put her in a headlock, Barak says
That's when things turned really ugly.
She said she went back to the booth and told the clerk, in broken French, she had laid a complaint.
"At that moment, she was knitting — and she was giving me the finger at the same time," Barak said. "I told her, 'I am going to make sure you lose your job for what you said to me.'"
She said the clerk dropped her knitting, emerged from booth, put her in a headlock and started to punch her repeatedly.
She said three witnesses, other commuters, stepped in to separate the pair.
Barak said the Société de transport de Montréal police arrived a few moments later, as she was running upstairs and out of the metro station to call Montreal police.
"I said, come right now — because this isn't normal for me to get beat up," Barak said. "It's not OK for her to come out of her booth. Regardless of what I say, regardless of what language I speak."
She said she told police the story and said she wanted to press charges, then she was taken by ambulance to the Montreal General Hospital.
She said the confrontation left her with a bad headache, but she was otherwise unharmed.
"I'm in utter shock," she said.
A spokesperson for the STM has confirmed that an altercation took place, but Marianne Rouette said she did not have any information about the cause of the dispute.
Barak, however, said there is no question as to what happened.
"I can't believe it's got to this point, where it comes down that if you speak English, it's [so] threatening," she said. "It's ridiculous."Suggest a correction