Canada is a multi-cultural society including many social, cultural and religious groups. Furthermore, our country reports increases in same-sex couples and those reporting that their assigned sex at birth was different from their current gender. With so much diversity, the potential for acts of conflict or discrimination between groups rises.
Police across Canada reported 1,946 hate crimes to Statistics Canada in 2019. This is an increase of 7 per cent from the previous year. More than three quarters of these reported crimes took place in eight cities, including Calgary, Edmonton, Hamilton, Montreal, Ottawa, Quebec City, Toronto and Vancouver.
Police in Vancouver, and other cities across Canada, have reported an alarming rise in hate crime against East Asian Canadians, most likely stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic that originated in China. Since the pandemic began, more than 600 incidents of hate against Asians were reported to Chinese Canadian groups. One in three of these incidents were reported as assaults, including targeted coughing, physical attacks and violence.
Religion is also found to be a motivating factor in one-third of hate crimes in Canada, with Jews as the most targeted group in the country. Muslims are also often the target of hate, and uttering threats is one of the most prominent violent offences that Muslims face.
The vast majority of hate crimes remain unsolved. In 2018, only 31 per cent of reported hate crimes were solved by investigators, which was a small increase from the 28 per cent that were solved in 2017. These numbers are still lower than the success rate that investigators have for solving other types of crimes, which is typically 40 per cent.
WHAT IS A HATE CRIME?
Hate crime is a broad legal term that comprises a variety of motives, perpetrators, victims, behaviours and damage. There are a number of identified individuals and groups in Canada that are particularly at risk of hate crime victimization, including Indigenous peoples and those targeted because of their race, religion, ethnicity, national orientation, sexual orientation, gender or disability.
There are three specific sections of the Criminal Code of Canada that refer to hate crimes, including:
- Section 318: Hate propaganda, which specifically refers to advocating for genocide;
- Section 319: Public incitement of hatred, which specifically refers to stirring up hatred in public places; and
- Section 430 (4.1): Mischief related to religious property, which specifically refers to mischief taking place a churches, mosques, temples, synagogues and other places of worship.
Police may lay a hate-motivated or bias-motivated criminal charge if two things occur:
- A criminal offence must have occurred, such as an assault, damage to property or uttering threats; and
- Hate or bias towards a victim must have motivated the criminal offence, for example due to the victim’s race, nationality, colour, religion, general, disability or sexual orientation.
If an individual is convicted of a criminal offence and it is proven to be motivated by hate or bias, the judge may impose higher penalties during sentencing.
Section 718.2 of the Criminal Code requires judges to consider an increased sentenced based on evidence that an offence was “motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression, or on any other similar factor.”
POLICE IN ONTARIO ARE NOT ABLE TO MEET THE DEMANDS OF HATE CRIMES
According to a new report, Ontario police are unprepared to meet the challenges associated with the increase in hate crimes reported.
The new report, prepared by Barbara Perry, the director of the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism at the Ontario Tech University, includes interviews with front-line officers.
Following her interviews with senior police officers, hate crime officers and diversity officers, Perry found that many are not clear as to what constitutes a hate crime. This was found across all of those officers she interviewed.
Perry spent more than two years researching and interviewing officers at eight municipal police services across Ontario. She found that some agencies were successful in their internal training and outreach to targeted communities, whereas others failed in their approach regarding hate crimes.
Law enforcement officers themselves have expressed concern regarding the lack of systematic and co-ordinated police response to hate crime. A major concern here is the confusion surrounding the way which hate-crime offences are classified in the Canadian Criminal Code.
Perry suggests that police agencies need to build better relationships with racialized, religious and LGBTQ communities, including disclosing their hate crime data.
Ontario’s Solicitor-General and Attorney-General have not yet commented on Perry’s report.
If you have been charged with a criminal offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We have a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times. We are available when you need us most.