The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) is urging elected officials to do more to combat hate crimes.
This is despite a Statistics Canada report, released this week, which revealed a 17 per cent drop in hate crimes in Canada. It found there were 247 fewer incidents of hate-fuelled criminal activity reported to police between 2012 and 2013.
According to StatsCan, which defines a hate crime as a criminal incident that, upon investigation by police, is determined to have been motivated by hate toward an identifiable group, the decline was mainly because non-violent hate crime incidents, such as “mischief”, saw nearly a one-third decrease.
But, NCCM is convinced the report doesn’t tell the whole story. For example, although the StatsCan report has shown a drop in reported hate crimes, anti-Muslim hate crimes have increased by 44 per cent between 2012 and 2013, marking the only category that saw a significant increase.
As such, the organization is calling on more Canadians to speak out and report hate with the launch of its own national hate crimes awareness project this week.
“Our aim in launching a national hate crime awareness project is to urge Canadian Muslims, as well as fellow Canadians, to report hate wherever and whenever it happens so that we can find ways to combat it.” – Ihsaan Gardee, National Council of Canadian Muslims
The project includes a social media campaign, as well as an online map, to track hate crimes and incidents reported across Canada. NCCM’s online hate tracker will be accessible to the general public, as well as researchers, policy makers, elected officials and the media, as a way to inform all Canadians.
“The federal justice department terms unreported crimes as representing ‘the dark figure.’ Canadians may be reluctant to report crimes for a variety of reasons, including further stigmatization,” said Ihsaan Gardee, NCCM’s executive director, in a news release. “Our aim in launching a national hate crime awareness project is to urge Canadian Muslims, as well as fellow Canadians, to report hate wherever and whenever it happens so that we can find ways to combat it.”
“There are issues with hate crime statistics,” says Roger Love, an advice lawyer for the Toronto-based African Canadian Legal Clinic (ACLC).
Love says he doesn’t believe the statistics are an accurate reflection of what is actually happening, because of the number of hate crimes that go underreported.
“People feel if they’ve been a victim of a hate crime, and it’s not reported as such, [they’ve] opened [themselves] to that experience only to be shut down again,” says Love, adding that hate crime victims don’t speak out due to fear of ‘re-victimization’ or ‘mistrust of police forces’.
“If you try to expose it, they’re going to face you with some kind of backlash, which can be tough when you feel somewhat marginalized,” says Love.
“We were disappointed because the African-Canadian community still consistently ranks highest for race-based hate crimes, which is sad.” – Roger Love, African Canadian Legal Clinic
He adds hate crimes sometimes often fall into the category of ‘everyday racism’ that some marginalized communities experience, yet don’t report, because it is accepted as a ‘fact of life’.
“We were disappointed because the African-Canadian community still consistently ranks highest for race-based hate crimes, which is sad.”
Love says the ACLC has often had to advocate for alleged hate crime victims to ensure it is investigated as a hate crime.
“Sometimes, without advocacy, the hate-motivated factor could be overlooked and it could be counted as a normal crime.”
A Model for Other Communities
The head of Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CRRF) says although some groups are reluctant to voice their complaints to police, the same does not apply for the Jewish community — what she calls ‘the most victimized group for religion’.
“When it comes to the Jewish community, there is pretty good reporting, because there’s a certain level of comfort that you might not find in other communities,” says CRRF Executive Director Anita Bromberg.
“The Jewish community has had a good relationship with the police and it’s a model that other communities . . . should look at.”
“Our communities are consistently coming to us to report these crimes and this is reflected in the number of hate or bias crimes reported from year to year.” – Toronto Police Service
Bromberg agrees with Love, though, in that not everything gets reported.
“Ten to 20 per cent of hate-related incidents get reported,” says Bromberg, adding that the more violent or criminal acts make the mark.
“It’ll take a threat before someone picks up the phone and calls the police over it.”
“There’s always some fear of retaliation,” adds Bromberg, who says when a complaint is lodged, it could take time for any resolution to come about in the court system — and that can mean the hate crime victim can experience continued harassment.
“People aren’t reporting it,” insists Bromberg. “You get harassed at work. Your boss is anti-Semitic. You’re worried about the consequences of [reporting] it. You’re seeing on campus students are afraid if a teacher is espousing that hatred. They’re worried about their marks.”
In an e-mailed statement, the Toronto Police Service (TPS) says its Hate Crime Unit (HCU) has a long-standing relationship with the communities it serves.
“Our communities are consistently coming to us to report these crimes and this is reflected in the number of hate or bias crimes reported from year to year,” adds the TPS statement.
Still, the organization acknowledges some victims may be reluctant to report hate or bias crimes for several reasons.
“The victim may not recognize that the crime was motivated by bias or hate; fear of retaliation; uncertainty of the criminal justice system’s response; the victim may fear his or her sexual orientation may be exposed to family members or his or her employer; and/or embarrassment and humiliation of being victimized.”
Notice to Readers: An earlier version of this article reported that anti-Muslim hate crimes had doubled since 2012. We have since corrected this inaccuracy and regret our error.