THE National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) was joined by representatives of diverse Canadian communities on Tuesday in Ottawa to urge elected officials to do more to educate Canadians about the ramifications of hate crimes and to help find ways to address this phenomenon.
To bolster this effort, timed with the release of the latest police-reported hate crime data by Statistics Canada, the NCCM unveiled a national hate crime awareness project that includes a social media campaign as well as an online map to track hate crimes and incidents reported across Canada. . (http://www.nccm.ca/map-of-anti-muslim-incidents-reported-across-canada/)
The 2013 police-reported hate crimes shows an overall decrease in police reported hate-crimes. However, anti-Muslim hate crimes have increased by 44% since 2012, marking the only category that saw a significant increase.
“This latest data is troubling and may show a trend of growing anti-Muslim hate crimes. Our own data for 2014 shows a further increase so this is clearly an issue that deserves more attention,” said Amira Elghawaby, the NCCM’s human rights coordinator.
However, Statistics Canada acknowledges that even this does not show the full picture. Studies indicate that hate crimes may be the most underreported type of crime including one study that reported that a full two-thirds of victims surveyed chose not to report the crime to police. Furthermore, police forces in smaller communities may not always have the necessary resources to accurately document the added dimension of hate-motivated bias when investigating crimes, said the NCCM.
“The federal justice department terms unreported crimes as representing ‘the dark figure’. Canadians may be reluctant to report crimes for a variety of reasons, including further stigmatization. Our aim in launching a national hate crime awareness project is to urge Canadian Muslims, as well as fellow Canadians, to report hate wherever and whenever it happens so that we can find ways to combat it,” said Ihsaan Gardee, NCCM’s executive director.
“Our new interactive online map will capture anti-Muslim activity as soon as it is reported to us or reported publicly in a way that is accessible to the general public, researchers, policy makers, elected officials, and the media. This will help inform all Canadians about the need to explore and implement proactive initiatives on national, provincial, and local levels.”
“The NCCM’s hate crime tracking initiative is a welcome advance in our capacity to monitor bias motivated violence wherever it occurs,” said Professor Barbara Perry from the University of Ontario’s Institute of Technology, and one of the few Canadian researchers who has studied anti-Muslim hate. “We know all too well that very little such victimization is reported to police for a variety of reasons. Because of this, our knowledge of the patterns and distribution of anti-Muslim and other forms of violent bigotry has been limited. This tool will begin to remedy this short-coming. I would like to think it is but one step toward greater attention to the risk to which Muslim communities are exposed. It must, however, only be seen as one instrument in a growing toolkit that will include research, resources and policy intended to ensure that our Muslim brothers and sisters are able to live without fear.”
“Because knowledge is power, this new initiative by the NCCM to monitor and report on anti-Muslim hate crime will help raise awareness of the problem and be part of the solution,” said Richard Warman, human rights lawyer.
“Hatred is rarely limited to one target. We must look at all forms of hatred together, rather than each one in isolation,” says Ryan Dyck, Director of Research, Policy and Development, Egale Canada Human Rights Trust. “Because unless we address the root of the problem—the hateful idea that one group of people can be set above the rest; that one set of characteristics is ‘normal’ and therefore superior to all others—we will never be successful in addressing any one of its symptoms.”
“In the Sikh community, we have seen recent examples of the defacing of gurdwaras and Sikh schools in Montreal, Brampton and Edmonton with racist graffiti as well as the distribution of racist literature targeting communities with significant Sikh populations,” Mukhbir Singh,Vice-President (Quebec and Atlantic Canada) of the World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO). “Many incidents go unreported with victims not wishing to draw negative attention to themselves or make the problem worse. We however continue to encourage community members to report such incidents to the police so that they can be properly investigated and those responsible be held accountable.”
The statistics reveal that the African Canadian community continues to be the primary target of hate crimes, noted Roger Love, Legal Counsel for the African Canadian Legal Clinic. “The fact that we live in a country where persons of African descent continue to be victims of violent crimes for no other reason but the colour of their skin is deplorable.”
“In order to alleviate some of the barriers faced by the African Canadian community, all officers and Crown Attorney’s should receive special training on how to identify, and investigate hate crimes and incidents of anti-Black hate,” said Love. “As we move into the cyber age resources devoted to investigating incidents of hate speech or racially motivated harassment online have failed to keep pace with reality.”
“As a Canadian Jew who spent much of his adult life fighting hatred, bigotry and discrimination, I am utterly of the view that Canada’s anti-hate laws used as they have been with care and wisdom creates a valuable and needed ‘fence of protection’ for minority groups in this country,” said Bernie Farber, human rights advocate and former CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress.
“And it was very much thanks to education initiatives such as we are discussing today that led to stopping the hateful bullying of which our community was a target. Taking a stand against hateful bullying is difficult. Victims would prefer not to make waves in the hope that the hatemonger will simply go away. Community leaders who should be on the frontline of condemnation all too often choose silence. We must not be victims any longer. Silence can no longer be an option.”