Hate crime data ‘a wake-up call’
Community groups in Toronto leading effort for change
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.”