By Leslie Ferenc, Toronto Star, June 8, 2011
B’nai Brith is calling for more resources to combat hate crimes following a Statistics Canada study that found police-reported incidents increased 42 per cent nationwide between 2008 and 2009.
The numbers “may under-estimate the true extent of hate crime in Canada,” because not all incidents are reported to police, according to Stats Canada analysts. They also noted that cultural, ethnic and religious diversity is changing rapidly.
“With such diversity . . . discrimination or bias can arise. Some of these incidents may occur in the form of hate crimes.”
According to study findings released Tuesday, Canadian police services reported 1,473 hate crimes in 2009, up by 437 from the previous year when a 35 per cent increase was recorded. Fifty-four per cent of police-reported hate crimes were sparked by race or ethnicity, 29 per cent by religion and 13 per cent by sexual orientation, which rose 55 per cent in 2009.
The study also found seven in 10 religiously motivated hate crimes reported targeted the Jewish community, up 71 per cent from 2008.
“We are very disturbed by the findings of this study,” said Frank Dimant, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada who noted the rise in reported hate crimes targeting the Jewish community “should be a cause for alarm.
The Stats Canada study also found:
• Police-reported hate crimes against all racial groups rose in 2009. The largest increase was against Arabs or West Asians, which doubled to 75 incidents.
• Blacks were the most commonly targeted racial group with 272 reports or 38 per cent of all racially-motivated incidents in 2009.
• Violent offences, such as assault, accounted for about four in 10 hate crimes reported by police. Violent offences were particularly more common among hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation.
• 54 per cent of reported hate crimes involved mischief offences, such as graffiti or vandalism. Numbers were highest among youth and young adults for both victims and accused.
"Nice," "innocent," "pure" and "undefiled" Canada eh? So much for that myth!
Our youth and young adults are as unrestrained about their bigotry as are any young people in the world.
While the level of violence seems mostly motivated by sexual orientation, that is against gays and lesbians, there are large reasons for this specific bias and fear.
The churches, the Christian churches, especially those of a fundamentalist, literalist interpretation of scripture, are themselves hotbeds of hate, from their pulpits and their pews. And let's not cloak their bigotry in sanctimony.
With or without a clergy collar, and with or without words of scripture wrapped around the attitude of bigotry, contempt and disdain, those attitudes are still hate.
I am currently reading that part of Barack Obama's David Remnick biography discussing the sermons of Jeremiah Wright, and his influence on the presidential campaign of 2008. And when Wright denounces the U.S. for its unthinking bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, when compared with the attack of 9-11, he gets under the skin of those who champion the U.S. decision, especially those in the white establishment.
In Canada, our contempt for Jews, and for First Nations, at the personal level, is unchecked, except perhaps by "political correctness" which is merely a veneer of "propriety" and not a true expression of our deepest feelings.
And religion is also complicit in the repression of feelings of contempt; those feelings seem incompatible with a "love thy neighbour" kind of theology and ethic. So, finding out how we really think and feel takes both time and specific incidents to which we are compelled to react. There are anti-hate and anit-bigotry messages from prominent athletes and actors running on U.S. television channels. Words that demonstrate bigotry and hate are pointed to by name, and viewers are reminded not to use those words, and that they are "better than that".
Bringing racial and ethnic bigotry out of the closet, as the StatsCan numbers do, is only a first step in the social and cultural change that is both required and expected. However, when our politicians, like Harper and his gang, target specific ethnic groups, in a wedge-divisive manner, in order to get votes, while there is no specific empirical evidence that they say or do anything that would be considered bigoted, there is certainly an underlying separation for the purpose of garnering votes and they have to bear some responsibility for their misguided approach to soliciting votes.
I once bought a Japanese-made auto only to find spectators in the U.S. referring to it as a "rice-burner".
Of course, I was appalled, but it is that kind of racism that underscores and illustrates our racial biases.
The city of Brampton, just west of Toronto, has often been referred to as Bramladesh, in an obvious reference to the many immigrants from Bangladesh who live(d) there.
A piece on hate crime rising has to be balanced, however, in Canada, by the hiring policy and practices of the CBC that Harper-hated institution that is a repository of many of our leading and positive attitudes. That institution has done more to demonstrate the competence and the admissibility of representatives of various ethnic communities in their news anchors and their reporters and anyone who watches can only be proud of at least that small slivver of our corporate world.
In larger cities, like Toronto and Montreal and Vancouver there are also many sterling or even platinum examples of police hires from a multitude of ethnic communities. It is more likely in the smaller towns and villages that racial and ethnic diversity, historiclly known as multiculturalism in Canada, has and continues to face strong headwinds. It is in those very towns and villages where the school principals and the clinic managers have to be receptive to ethnic and racial diversity in their hiring and in their policies and practices when dealing with discrimination.
And, the problem requires the individual and concerted attention of everyone, from all ethnicities and linguistic backgrounds, if this trend is to be reversed. We will never remove racial and ethnic bigotry but we can do much to reduce the statistical trend and we must.