What Exactly is a Hate Crime?
It’s true that hate-motivated crimes are on the rise in Mississauga and Brampton--two cities where visible minorities make up more than 50 per cent of the population, according to a recent Peel Police Services Board report.
But some of you might be wondering - what exactly is a hate crime?
According to the Peel Regional Police website, there is actually no such thing as a Hate Crime in the Criminal Code of Canada.
While Advocating Genocide (Section 318), Public Incitement of Hatred (Section 319 (1)), and Wilful Promotion of Hatred (Section 319 (2)) fall under the Hate-Propaganda section, there are other offences that police categorize as Hate-Motivated or Bias-Motivated Crimes.
“Investigations involving these crimes are complex and it’s important the public understands this difficult and sometimes confusing topic,” reads the website.
So, what counts as a hate crime?
According to police, there are two things that must have happened to lay a Hate Crime criminal charge:
- A criminal offence must have occurred (e.g. an assault, damage to property, uttering threats etc.).
- Hate or Bias toward a victim must have motivated the criminal offence (e.g. because of the victim’s race, nationality, ethnic original, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation etc.).
Since a Hate Crime isn’t in the Criminal Code, police have to balance Constitutional Rights with the Criminal Code of Canada.
Essentially, police have to conduct and investigation, give the file the local Crown Attorney’s Office, and get consent from the Attorney General’s Office.
Advocating Genocide and Wilful Promotion of Hatred need that consent before charges are laid.
The trend in Hate-Motivated crime is startling.
According to the Peel Police Services Board report, 40,382 criminal code offences were reported to Peel police in 2017. Of those offences, 158 (or 0.4 per cent) were designated as hate-motivated crimes.
That number might seem low, but Hate-Motivated incidents and offences seem to be increasing year-over-year.
In 2016, just 59 hate-motivated offences were reported, meaning the number of reported offences more than doubled between then and 2017. According to police, most offences (106, or 67.1 per cent) are graffiti or mischief related offences.
As recently as May 2018, police arrested and charged two teens with mischief after "derogatory and offensive" phrases were reportedly painted on a sidewalk near Iona Secondary School.
Police say that that 35 (22.2 per cent) of the reported hate/bias crimes were violent in nature, meaning they involved either threatening words, assault, assault with a weapon, robbery and other more serious criminal offences.
Police say religion was the most common motivating factor in hate or bias-related crimes, with reported perpetrators singling out the Muslim faith most frequently. In fact, Muslims or Islam were the target in 57 (36.1 per cent) incidents.
In 2017, 16 (or 10.1 per cent) of the 158 reported hate crimes resulted in charges.
It’s important to remember that if a suspect is convicted of a criminal offence and it’s proven to be motivated by hate or bias, a judge might impose higher penalties during sentencing.
Freedom of speech adds another layer to this.
“In Canada, freedom of speech is protected as a fundamental freedom as guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” reads the Peel police website.
“Those who wish to peacefully protest or convey a point of view have the right to do so, even if their viewpoints are considered offensive to some and/or are different from the others.”
When it comes to investigating a Hate-Motivated or Bias-Motivated crime, all of Peel’s police officers are trained to deal with these offences. That includes front-line officers and investigators, and each police division has a Hate-Motivated Crime Co-ordinator who monitors and assists with investigations.
“A Regional Hate-Motivated Crime Co-ordinator works in our Equity and Inclusion Bureau who tracks all Hate-Motivated and Bias-Motivated incidents and criminal offences,” reads the website.
“This officer is a resource and provides supports to investigators while analyzing trends and developing pro-active strategies aimed at reducing Hate-Motivated and Bias-Motivated Crime.”
If you’re wondering why there has been an uptick in these incidents in Brampton and Mississauga, there are some potential factors.
Police say the number of reported hate/bias crimes have fluctuated over the past four years, spiking in 2016 and 2017.
"Part of the reason for this increase may be related to a focus on hate motivated crime training, part of which includes information being relayed to the community members on the importance of reporting such crimes," the Peel Police Services Board report reads.
Police also identify the recent increase in far-right groups as a potential cause behind the uptick. These groups tend to focus on Muslim and Jewish groups--groups targeted most frequently by extreme right-wing organizations.
The report says there has been a noticeable increase in anti-Muslim graffiti, most of which are believed to be the work of two suspects.
As for which groups are being targeted, the data finds that Muslim people were victimized in 57 incidents, black people in 39, Jewish people in 36, South Asian people in 12, Asian people in six and Middle Eastern people in five.
As far as suspects go, police say accused parties are typically between the ages of 18 and 29. Of the known 45 suspects, 38 were male and seven were female. Most suspects are white.
But while the increase is significant, police say that the amount of reported offences remains low. Brampton and Mississauga have a combined population of 1,381,739 people, of which over half identify as visible minorities.
Anyone in immediate danger should contact 9-1-1 immediately.
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