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Hate crime reports in Vancouver reach 203 over four years

Majority of reports to Vancouver police related to Jewish people and property
A Vancouver police detective will deliver a presentation June 13 at the Jewish Community Centre on hate crimes. Photo Dan Toulgoet

A total of 203 suspected hate crimes—the majority targeting Jewish, gay and lesbian communities—were reported to Vancouver police between 2014 and 2017.

Data released by the VPD under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act showed that 92 cases were related to race or ethnicity, 62 involved religion and 43 concerned sexual orientation.

Jewish people or property was identified in 32 cases, followed by 31 reports connected specifically to lesbian and gay communities and 28 in the Black community.

The majority of the 203 cases, which were reported by police to Statistics Canada as “suspected or actual hate crimes,” were related to what police classified as mischief (91 files) and assaults (61).

The data did not break down the nature of the mischief, although police told the Courier that graffiti, etching on vehicles and property damage such as broken windows at places of worship have been investigated.

Assault with a weapon, harassment and uttering threats were some of the other offences identified by police in the data, which was posted May 31 to the VPD’s website.

The data shows Vancouver police saw reports of hate crimes increase from 46 in 2016 to 74 in 2017. Police said the 2018 data will also show an increase when statistics are released in the next few months.

So far this year, the number of reports has “stabilized, if not gone down a bit,” said Sgt. Valerie Spicer of the VPD’s Diversity, Inclusion and Indigenous Relations unit.

“What we see is not unique to Vancouver,” Spicer told the Courier.

“It’s actually occurring across the country, and in other countries around the world with nationalist-type movements. There appears to be more expression of hatred. We see this both online and in public. So we really want to keep a close eye on this.”

Anti-Semitic incidents on rise in B.C.

More details on types of crime, investigations and number of charges laid against perpetrators are expected to be revealed Thursday by Det. Const. Jacquie Abbott in a presentation on hate crime.

Abbott will provide details to the Vancouver Police Board, which is meeting at the Jewish Community Centre at 950 West 41st Ave. Senior Rabbi Dan Moskovitz of Temple Sholom will be in attendance.

Moskovitz pointed out the most recent report by B’nai Brith Canada showed significant increases in anti-Semitic incidents in B.C., increasing from 165 in 2017 to 374 last year.

The majority were for harassment.

“We’re very concerned about that because it seems to be trending around the globe,” said Moskovitz, who estimated Metro Vancouver’s Jewish population at 15,000.

“We receive some emails and phone calls from time to time. There has not been—thank God—any attacks on our facilities or individuals.”

Added Moskovitz: “We’ve been hated and persecuted for over 2,000 years. There’s a little bit of, ‘This is what it’s like to be a Jew in the world.’ While you’re never accepting of it, you recognize it and you move on. It’s the only way our people have been able to survive for so long—is to be able to stare in the face of some hatred and move on.”

Of the 203 reports to police, 20 files involved what police recorded on the data set as “east and southeast Asian communities,” or Chinese and Japanese people and property.

Cases specifically targeting Muslims and Islam totalled 18.

Aboriginal, South Asian, West Asian, Arab, Buddhist, Sikh, Hindu, Jehovah’s Witness, Protestant, Catholic and “multiple races/ethnicities” are captured in the data.

The 43 incidents related to sexual orientation involved gay, lesbian, transgender, non-binary, intersex, agender, asexual and pansexual people or property.

The majority were related to assaults and harassment.

'Hate speech'

Osmel Guerra Maynes, executive director of Qmunity, which describes itself as B.C.’s queer, trans and two-spirit resource centre, said he believes the rise in extremist views and the promotion of hate is at the root of the incidents.

“I love to say to folks, ‘It’s freedom of speech, it’s not freedom of hate speech,’” said Maynes, who identifies as an Afro Latino cisgender queer man. “This whole rhetoric world of hate is spreading.”

He mentioned trans advocates in January having to rally against controversial feminist speaker Meghan Murphy, who spoke at the Vancouver Public Library. Murphy’s views on transgender issues have drawn attention.

Words hurt, Maynes said, and so does imagery. He went on to tell a story about a black woman in Toronto who recently had “the n-word” spray-painted across her door.

Though the crime of mischief could be viewed by the public as a minor incident, Maynes said the motivation behind it cannot be discounted.

“There’s some underlying hardcore fact behind it,” he said.

Stephanie Allen, a director of the Hogan’s Alley Society, said she was disappointed to hear of the 203 hate crime reports to police, but not surprised.

“As a society—and particularly in our education system—we haven’t gone far enough to address systemic oppression,” Allen said. “We just haven’t put that work in to unpacking, understanding and rooting it out.”

Allen said she continues to work against the “ongoing marginalization" of people of African descent in Canada and wants more context from police on the data to understand it better.

“Hate groups may spray a swastika on something, but that actually represents hatred towards a lot of groups—disabled people, queer people, Black people, Jewish people,” she said.

Allen, Maynes, Spicer and Moskovitz all agreed the Vancouver police data on hate crimes does not capture all suspected or actual hate crimes in the city.

“We know it’s low compared to the prevalence,” said Spicer, referring to findings of the 2014 General Social Survey on Canadians’ Safety report produced by Statistics Canada.

Hate crimes underreported

That report showed Canadians self-reported being the victim of more than 330,000 criminal incidents that they perceived as being motivated by hate. Two-thirds of those incidents were not reported to the police.

The most common reasons cited for not contacting police were that the crime was minor and not worth reporting, that the offender would not have been convicted or adequately punished or there was a lack of evidence.

Other reasons were that police would not have been effective in investigating the crime and that the matter was solved privately.

“Residents should know that we’re keeping a good eye on hate crimes, and that we encourage people to report hate crimes and that we can dedicate resources to this problem,” Spicer said.

“We do understand the victimization that comes from it…it’s not acceptable that this happens. Hatred is not acceptable in society.”

A total of 2,073 hate crimes were reported across the country in 2017. That was up 47 per cent over the previous year, according to a Statistics Canada report that said the crimes were largely related to property such as vandalism and graffiti.

The census metropolitan areas of Toronto—at 519 hate crime reports per 100,000 population—and Montreal (311) accounted for much of the national increase in reported hate crimes.

Metro Vancouver recorded 183 hate crime reports per 100,000 people in 2017.

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