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June 23, 2011

Canada: Hate crimes on the rise

The Canadian Charger

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According to Statistics Canada hate crimes are on the rise. In 2009, Canadian police services reported 1,473 hate crimes, an increase of 42% from the previous year.

Although there are many formal definitions of hate crime in Canada the consensus covers that a hate crime is a criminal act against a person(s) or property that is based solely, or in part, upon the victim's race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or disability.

The racial group that was most commonly targeted was Blacks with 272 incidents, while hate crimes against Arabs or West Asians doubled to 75 in 2009 in compared to 37 in 2008. 

Religiously motivated hate crimes were mostly committed against Jews at 7 out of 10 incidents as hate crimes against the Jewish faith jumped a staggering 78% from 2008 to 2009.  Hate crimes against the Muslim faith also rose in 2009 by 38%.

What is most disturbing about this report’s findings is that it suggests that it “may under-estimate the true extent of hate crime in Canada as not all incidents are reported to police”. 

Some people most probably will refuse to come forward because of fear or the shame that comes with an attack that is violent and racially or religiously motivated.

What is easily predictable is that 54% of all hate crimes in the report can be categorized as mischief and are somewhat cowardice in nature.  These include such things as graffiti, or vandalism of religious properties.

As far as hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation the report noted that these incidents were more often violent at about three-quarters (74%) of all such incidents.

Where the report becomes most alarming and perhaps revealing is who the majority of the perpetrators are.  The report says that hate crime rates were generally highest among youth and young adults.  The rate peaked among those aged 12 to 17 years and generally decreased with increasing age.

This is most revealing because of the arguable relation between those who are the most impressionable and hate crimes.  It begs the question; where is the hatred that these youth possess coming from? 

The simple answer would be to justify it as something passed on from the influential adults in their life.  It could however just as easily suggested to be coming from the information that our youth gets from the media, the Internet, and hate speech.

Unlike hate crimes, hate speech is harder to define and often falls through the crack of being labeled a crime and being labeled free speech.  If we are to learn anything from this report it is that we are some how letting hate crime progress from something less obvious.

Canada’s Muslims are the most affected by hate crime and hate speech as right wing media and politicians often bash Islam and Muslims. If this to change educating the public that Islamophobia hurts us all must be at the top of the agenda. Let us hope and work for a better Canada, not for the few but for all its citizens

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