Hate crime data ‘a wake-up call’

Com­mu­nity groups in Toronto lead­ing ef­fort for change

StarMetro Toronto - - FRONT PAGE - Gil­bert Ngabo

With hate crimes on the rise in Canada, com­mu­nity ad­vo­cates in Toronto are de­ter­mined to stop the ha­tred.

Ac­cord­ing to newly re­leased data from Sta­tis­tics Canada, hate crimes in­creased by five per cent across the coun­try, from 1,295 in­ci­dents in 2014 to 1,362 in 2015. Nearly half were based on race or eth­nic­ity. About 35 per cent were mo­ti­vated by religious ha­tred, while 11 per cent tar­geted sex­ual orientation.

“That’s a wake-up call that we still have a lot of work to do, both in ed­u­ca­tion and law en­force­ment,” said Steve McDon­ald, deputy di­rec­tor of pub­lic af­fairs at Toronto’s Cen­tre for Is­rael and Jewish Af­fairs. Jewish Cana­di­ans were the most tar­geted religious com­mu­nity, with 178 in­ci­dents.

The cen­tre is part of a coali­tion of more than 20 di­verse or­ga­ni­za­tions call­ing for a re­view and up­date of the Crim­i­nal Code. Cur­rently, the charge of “mis­chief re­lat­ing to religious prop­erty” does not cover crimes com­mit­ted in schools and com­mu­nity cen­tres where religious or eth­nic groups con­vene. Bill C-305, which in­cludes sug­gested amend­ments, is cur­rently be­fore the Se­nate af­ter pass­ing in the House of Com­mons last month.

“Crim­i­nals make no dis­tinc­tion whether it’s at school or at a place of wor­ship or a com­mu­nity cen­tre,” said McDon­ald. “It tran­scends many com­mu­ni­ties, and we have to work to­gether to stop it.”

The coali­tion also en­cour­ages at-risk com­mu­ni­ties to ap­ply for the se­cu­rity in­fra­struc­ture pro­gram, which pro­vides money to up­grade se­cu­rity-cam­era sys­tems, ex­te­rior light­ing, fenc­ing and locks.

The Church and Welles­ley Vil­lage Busi­ness Im­prove­ment Area (BIA) re­cently teamed up with po­lice to launch an an­ti­hate cam­paign en­cour­ag­ing res­i­dents to re­port in­ci­dents in the neigh­bour­hood, a hub for Toronto’s LGBTQ com­mu­nity.

“Hate crimes are on the rise, es­pe­cially in the LGBTQ com­mu­nity,” said Christo­pher Hud­speth, vice-chair of the vil­lage’s BIA. Cam­paign mem­bers have been dis­tribut­ing posters, post­cards and leaflets through­out the com­mu­nity, in­form­ing peo­ple of safety re­sources.

“This is sup­posed to be a safe place for not only our res­i­dents but also tourists, refugees and new­com­ers,” he said, not­ing the cam­paign will be an on­go­ing ef­fort. “We have to al­ways stand up for that, es­pe­cially now lead­ing up to Pride week­end.”

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