Hate crimes in Canada rising but what does it mean?

Hate can influence the final decision, according to the Peel Regional Police in Ontario.
Hate can influence the final decision, according to the Peel Regional Police in Ontario.

Hate has sadly always been with us as humans, but recently in Canada, it seems hate crimes are rising.

According to stats from 2016 (released earlier this year), an increase of more than three per cent in police-reported hate crimes was reported by Statistics Canada. The incidence of crimes targeting sexual orientation rose a disturbing 25 per cent in that same year, but 48 per cent of all crimes reported were about race or ethnicity.

And the problem is not going away anytime soon, according to a recent poll by the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) and Nanos Research.

“The study also revealed that almost one in six Canadians hold views that ‘could be anti-Semitic.’ Fifteen per cent of respondents said Jews have too much influence in business, international financial markets and global media; 18 per cent believe Jews have too much power in global affairs; and 13 per cent said they have too much influence on the Canadian government,” according to the Canadian Jewish News.

But what is a hate crime? According to the Criminal Code, “Every one who, by communicating statements in any public place, incites hatred against any identifiable group where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace” is guilty of the crime of public incitement of hatred, and could be sent to jail for two years less a day.

But it is in the sentencing procedure where the presence of hate can influence the final decision, according to the Peel Regional Police in Ontario.

“(Hate motivations) are considered as aggravating factors. So, they don’t in fact change the nature of the crime itself. The investigative process is the same, all of the information of the facts and issues of the crime are tabulated and investigated in the same way,” said Feras Ismail, lead officer with Peel Police Equity and Inclusion Bureau in an interview with the Brampton Guardian.

Those who publish hateful material can also be targeted. The Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General recently published a prosecution directive that warns against hate propaganda, whether it is published in the old-fashioned way via newspapers and books, but also online.

“The Criminal Code also provides a procedure for removing hate propaganda from the Internet. If the court is satisfied that the material or data is available to the public and is hate propaganda, the court may order the material or data be deleted and the electronic copy destroyed,” according to the directive.

In London, Ont., a recent spike of 60 per cent in hate-related crimes was not an indicator that the southwestern Ontario city is a “hotbed” of hate. Because some perpetrators are dumb enough to post their evil thoughts online, many others are easily able to report the potential offenses to police. The police reported that there were 40 hate-related incidents in 2016, rising to 64 in 2017.

“We’ve had a number of complaints come to us via that route, which wouldn’t have happened a couple of year ago,” said deputy chief Steve Williams to the London Free Press. “Overall, I don’t think we have to sound the alarm button.”

In B.C., the RCMP has established the British Columbia Hate Crime Team to help curb the incidents of hate crime against Muslims, which has skyrocketed from 45 police-reported crimes in 2013, to 159 in 2015, according to Statistics Canada.

“We want you to know we're here for you from a policing standpoint. We want you to report these incidents so we can track them and investigate them,” said RCMP Cpl. Anthony Statham.

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