Even as Statistics Canada reports that hate crimes are soaring in the country, anti-racism advocates say the numbers don’t tell the whole story.
While on his way to the park last April, at the “height of the pandemic,” Steven Ngo had stopped at a traffic light near his Vancouver home when passengers in a car that had pulled alongside threw garbage and hurled racial insults at him.
“It was a traumatic experience, but what happened next was even more troubling,” the Vancouver-based lawyer told New Canadian Media.
“I could not get anyone at the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) to take a report, and they had only one online form to report such incidents, and it was in Chinese.”
Ngo then worked to develop forms in multiple languages that are now on the VPD’s website to make reporting of hate crimes easier.
He is currently documenting his experience and findings to recommend tech solutions for easier reporting of hate crimes that will be delivered to the BC Humans Rights Commissioners office later the month.
“We must make reporting hate crimes as accessible as possible. There are thousands of cases that are not reported and that’s because it is nearly impossible to report a hate crime,” Ngo says.
“The status quo doesn’t work anymore. We cannot force victims to call a phone line that no one picks up…Vancouver has an online hate crime reporting system in place, but cities like Richmond, Burnaby and Surrey require residents to call a non-emergency phone line.”
But those numbers “don’t tell the whole story,” Ngo says while commenting on a new report by Statistics Canada showing that in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, police reported 2,669 hate crimes in Canada, up 37 per cent from 2019.
The report found that while the number of hate crimes rose sharply in 2020, this may still represent an underestimation.
“Self-reported data show that the majority of criminal incidents perceived to be motivated by hate are not reported to police. Approximately one in five (22%) of these incidents were reported to the police,” report’s authors said.
Statistics Canada said the rate of hate crime was highest in British Columbia (10.1 incidents per 100,000 population), Ontario (7.9 incidents per 100,000 population) and Alberta (6.6 incidents per 100,000 population).
Other key findings
- Between 2019 and 2020, the number of police-reported crimes motivated by hatred of a race or ethnicity increased 80%, from 884 to 1,594. Much of this increase was a result of more police-reported hate crimes targeting the Black population (+318 incidents), East or Southeast Asian population (+202 incidents), the Indigenous population (+44 incidents) and the South Asian population (+38 incidents).
- Police-reported hate crimes targeting religion declined 16% from 613 incidents in 2019 to 515 incidents in 2020. This decrease was primarily due to fewer hate crimes targeting the Muslim population, which declined from 182 to 82 incidents in 2020 (-55%). Hate crimes against the Jewish population rose slightly in 2020, from 306 to 321 incidents (+5%).
- Hate crimes targeting the Black and Jewish populations remained the most common types of hate crimes reported by police, representing 26% and 13% of all hate crimes, respectively. These were followed by hate crimes targeting the East or Southeast Asian population (11%) and those targeting a sexual orientation (10%).
- Analysis of all police-reported hate crimes between 2011 and 2020 shows that victims of violent hate crimes committed on the basis of their perceived Indigenous identity or sexual orientation tended to be the youngest among hate crime victims and sustain the highest proportion of injury.
Spike in hate crimes
Gurpreet Singh, a South Asian radio broadcaster and journalist, agreed that the number of hate crimes is higher than the reported numbers released today.
“Everyone, especially the police need to do more to raise awareness of this issue which has tarnished Canada’s reputation of being a tolerant society,” he told NCM.
Together with the CEO of Burnaby-based Spice Radio, Shushma Datt, they are staging the annual Hands Against Racism campaign tomorrow.
“The recent reports suggesting spike in hate crimes during the pandemic has made the Spice Radio campaign against racism even more relevant,” he said.
The campaign includes on air conversations every year on racism from Jan. 15 to March 21, which is the international day for the elimination of racial discrimination. The campaign was started in 2015 on the birth anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.
The 2022 Hands Against Racism event can be watched live online at noon on March 19 on the Spice Radio Facebook page.
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