Disproportionate Harm: Hate Crime in Canada
On the basis of the findings reviewed in this report, the following recommendations relating to policy and research are made:
- Further consideration should be given to the Hate Crime Statistics Act (Bill C-455) which received first reading in Parliament in 1993, but which has not been reviewed further.
- A uniform definition of a hate crime should be developed in consultation with all stakeholders in the area across Canada. These stakeholders should not be restricted to the criminal justice system.
- Consistent with the practice in other countries, the definition of a hate crime should not require the exclusive motivation threshold currently used in some jurisdictions. Hate crimes should be defined as crimes in which hatred or bias was in whole or in part responsible for the commission of the offence.
- In order to protect the privacy of individual victims, the definition of a hate crime should refer to the "actual or perceived" group status of the hate crime target.
- Uniform guidelines should be developed to permit greater consistency in the application of the definition of what constitutes a hate crime.
- The Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics should adopt the collection of hate crime statistics as a priority for future information requirements in the area of criminal justice.
- Questions relating to hate-motivation should be added to the data elements currently collected on the revised Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) survey (UCR II).
- In order to estimate the true extent to which hate crimes are underreported, questions about hate-motivation should also be added to the General Social Survey (GSS) victimization survey.
- Consideration should be given to increasing the amount of resources devoted to research into the nature and origins of hate crimes in Canada.
- Consideration should be given to the creation of new Criminal Code offences which would better reflect the true nature of hate crimes. One such offence could be defined as the desecration of property which carries religious significance.
These offences would replace the application of mischief as a charge in cases of hate crimes directed at synagogues and other places of religious worship.
- Greater efforts need to be made to increase visibility of the criminal justice response to hate crimes. This includes reaching out to the groups that have traditionally been the target of hate-motivated crimes.
- Specialized Hate Crime Units should be created in all major urban police forces across the country. These units should be composed of officers with special training in the area of crimes motivated by hate or bias. In addition to the conventional police functions of responding to incidents, and gathering evidence, these units should also participate in various police-community activities. The experience of the Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal police services shows how an effective Hate Crime Unit should function.
- Hate crime units in police agencies should be constantly in contact with the populations most at risk for hate crimes. This suggests periodic meetings with these groups to ensure that these communities are aware of hate crime trends, and that the police are responsive to the communities that they serve and protect.
- In light of the extremely low reporting rate, and the disproportionately high rate of violence in hate crimes directed at gays and lesbians, a principal focus of any hate crime strategy should be upon the gay/lesbian communities in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.
- In order to promote greater public awareness of this form of criminality, an effort should be made to convey information about hate crime motivation to the news media, so that this material will be communicated to the public.
- When an individual receives an enhanced sentence for a hate-motivated crime (according to case law or the new Sentencing Bill), this ground for aggravation should be noted in the reasons for sentence, and should be part of the offender information system which is communicated to federal or provincial correctional authorities.
- Confronting hate crimes is not the unique jurisdiction of the criminal justice system. As with other socio-legal issues such as drinking and driving and domestic violence, a general social response is necessary. Accordingly, a greater effort should be made to educate the public about this form of criminal behaviour.
A major focus of any such initiative should be directed at schools.
- Community groups should take an active role in educating their members about ways to respond to hate crimes when they occur. The activities of the 519 Church St. Community Centre provide a good role model in this regard.
- Community surveys should be conducted of the populations most at risk in order to gauge the extent to which they have confidence in the criminal justice response to reports of hate crimes.
- Consideration should be given to a national police training workshop, which would involve police officers from all hate crime units across the country, in order to promote a uniform police response to the investigation of hate crimes.
An effective criminal justice response to hate crimes involves a number of important elements: close police-community relations, public confidence in the effectiveness of the police response to reports of hate crimes as well as appropriate processing of those reports by the courts. The quality of the police response to hate crimes is critical, as is the public perception of that response. If people feel that the criminal justice system is not responding appropriately and vigorously to the problem of hate crimes, these incidents will remain unreported. However, nothing is more critical than having an accurate idea of the true nature and full extent of the problem. This can only come about if a greater effort is made to collect comprehensive hate crime statistics.At the present, Canada lags behind other western nations in this regard. The present report represents the first, small step towards documenting the incidence of this pernicious form of criminal activity, which, by its very nature, strikes at the heart of a multicultural society.
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