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Shofar FTP Archive File: orgs/canadian/canada/justice/disproportionate-harm/dh-000-01

Archive/File: orgs/canadian/canada/justice/disproportionate-harm/dh-000-01
Last-Modified: 1997/01/12
Source: Department of Justice Canada

                      EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

                         Hate Crime

Hate crimes are crimes in which the offender is motivated by
a characteristic of the victim that identifies the victim as
a member of a group towards which the offender feels some
animosity. The problem of hate crime is a truly global
phenomenon and Canada is no exception. Because they are
directed both at a group and an individual victim, hate
crimes carry an element of harm that is not present in other
kinds of offending. For this reason, many jurisdictions have
passed legislation increasing the penalties for crimes
motivated by hate. The Sentencing Reform Bill (C-41) in
Canada is an example of this kind of statute. Similar
legislation is to be found in the United States and other

The importance of the problem of hate crime is apparent from
the vigorous response that has emerged, both in terms of
private organizations (such as B'nai Brith) and the policing
community. Specialized hate crime units have been created in
many (but by no means all) police services across Canada. As
well, several police services are now collecting information
on the incidence of crimes motivated by hate. Nevertheless,
it is clear that many hate crimes are, for a variety of
reasons, still not reported to the police. In fact, it is
likely that hate crimes are among the most under-reported
forms of criminality.

                 Purpose and Scope of Report

To date, there has been little systematic research in Canada
upon the nature and incidence of hate crimes. The purpose of
the present report was to collect together in a single
document information on the incidence of hate crimes. A
special request was sent by the Department of Justice Canada
to a number of different sources, including police forces
across Canada and B'nai Brith. These data are summarized in
this document, along with additional information relating to
hate-motivated incidents involving gays and lesbians.

                Classification of Hate Crimes

One of the difficulties surrounding the collection of hate
crimes concerns the definition of what constitutes a hate-
motivated incident. There is considerable variability in the
definitions in use by police services across Canada. Some
police forces (such as the Metropolitan Toronto Police
Service) use what might be termed an exclusive definition.
That is, a crime is only classified as a hate crime when, in
the opinion of the investigating officer, the act was "based
solely upon the victim's race, religion, nationality, ethnic
origin, sexual orientation gender or disability". Other
police agencies such as the Ottawa Police Service use a
lower threshold. According to this broader definition, a
hate-motivated crime is one that was motivated "in whole or
in part, by a bias". The matter of definition is critical;
if the exclusive definition is used, then a much smaller
number of incidents are likely to be classified as hate
crimes. This observation is borne out by statistics both in
Canada and  elsewhere: jurisdictions adhering to an
exclusive definition report significantly lower rates of
hate crimes.

           Under-reporting Incidents of Hate Crime

A central deficiency of all criminal justice statistics is
that a proportion of incidents are never reported to the
police. This proportion (known as the "Dark Figure" of crime
varies from offence to offence, and may run as high as 95
percent for certain crimes. There are several reasons to
believe that the percentage of offences that are not
reported to the police may be particularly high for hate
crimes. First, victims may fear additional victimization.
Second, victims of racially-motivated hate crimes may well
be apprehensive that the criminal justice system will not
take their reports seriously enough. Third, the sensitive
nature of hate crimes directed at gays or lesbians may
result in the victim staying away from the police for fear
of stigmatization on the basis of homophobia.

         Hate Crime Patterns in Other Jurisdictions

Hate crime statistics have been collected on a systematic
basis in the United States since 1990, when Congress passed
the Hate Crime Statistics Act, which requires states to
collect such data and submit them to the federal government.
In the most recent year for which data are available, there
were almost 9,000 hate crime incidents recorded by the
Federal Bureau of Investigation. This total clearly
represents but a small fraction of hate crimes actually
committed. The most frequently occurring offence was
threatening, followed by vandalism and assaults. Racial
minorities were the most frequent target of hate motivated
crimes, accounting for almost two-thirds of incidents
recorded. The next most frequent target category was
religious groups. Almost all the incidents in this category
were anti-semitic in nature. There was a clear interaction
between the nature of the offence and the nature of the
target. Hate crimes directed against individuals on the
basis of race or ethnicity were more likely to be crimes of
violence, while anti-semitic incidents were more likely to
be crimes of property.

British data derived from the British Crime Survey (and
published by the Home Office) provide a good indication of
the magnitude of the problem. Drawing upon a victimization
survey (and not just reports recorded by the police), a
recent report suggests that over 100,000 racially-motivated
crimes occur every year in Britain. This does not include
hate crimes directed at gays or lesbians, or incidents of
anti-semitism. If these additional forms of hate crime were
added, the total would be much higher.

                 Hate Crime Trends in Canada

As noted above, this report summarizes data from three
sources: several police services across the country who
responded to a data request from the Department of Justice
Canada, B'nai Brith of Canada and two groups representing
the gay and lesbian communities in Toronto and Montreal.

                        Police Forces

The majority of hate crimes recorded by the police across
Canada were directed against racial minorities. Sixty-one
percent of all hate crime incidents were directed against
racial minorities, 23 percent against religious minorities,
11 percent against gays or lesbians and 5 percent against
ethnic minorities. This breakdown is remarkably similar to
the breakdown of targets in the United States, where 63
percent of incidents were directed at racial minorities.
This suggests that there are strong parallels between the
nature of hate crime in Canada and elsewhere.

                         B'nai Brith

The League of Human Rights of B'nai Brith Canada has
compiled data on anti-semitic  incidents for over a decade
now. These data are published in the annual "Audit of Anti :
semitic Incidents". Since the same definitions and incidents
have been used over this period, this data-base constitutes
a unique historical record of hate crimes in Canada.
Incidents in the data-base are classified as vandalism or
harassment. In 1994, there were 290 incidents of anti-
semitism recorded by the League for Human Rights. These data
provide convincing evidence that there has been an increase
in al ti-semitic activity on Canada in recent years. This
represents an almost 50 percent increase in the number
reported since 1992. Most  incidents occurred in cities:
Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto accounted for over 80 percent
of  all incidents, with exactly half occurring in Toronto

              Gay and Lesbian Community Groups

Research in other countries such as the United States has
clearly shown that gays and lesbians are a principal target
for hate crimes. In addition, there are several reasons to
believe that members of the gay community are less likely
than any other victimized group to report incidents to the
police. For this reason, police statistics are likely to
seriously underestimate the extent of the threat to the gay
community in Canada. Analysis of calls to a hotline in
Toronto run by the 519 Church Street Community Centre shows
that a high incidence of hate-motivated incidents directed
at gays and lesbians involve physical assault. Only a
minority of  incidents reported to the hotline had been
reported to the police. Data from this same source  suggest
that hate crimes directed at this group are also less likely
to result in a conviction than other crimes. Similar trends
emerged from an analysis of statistics from a shorter period
in  Montreal. These were reported by the Table de
Concertation des lesbiennes et des gais du Grand Montreal.

        Estimates of Number of Hate Crimes Committed

Although the exercise must remain rather speculative, an
attempt was made to estimate the number of hate crimes
committed annually in Canada, not just the number of
incidents recorded by the police. Using the data from Ottawa
in 1994, the following extrapolation was made. In that year,
211 founded hate crimes were recorded by the Ottawa police.
Assuming that only one-third of all incidents are ever
reported to the police, this suggests that 633 incidents
were actually committed. Since Ottawa accounts for 7 percent
of the total Criminal Code offences for the major urban
centres in Canada, this implies that the total number of
hate crimes committed in nine urban centres (Halifax,
Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Regina, Calgary,
Edmonton, Vancouver) is approximately 60,000. This estimate
is consistent with estimates of the incidence of hate crimes
in other jurisdictions. For example, the British Home Office
has estimated that there are approximately 100,000 hate
crimes committed annually in England and Wales. This British
estimate is based upon a single form of hate crime (racially-
motivated crimes), while the estimate for Canada's urban
centres includes other forms of hate crime such as crimes
motivated by hatred based on religion, ethnicity and ethnic

                      Better Statistics

In order to provide an effective response to the problem of
hate crimes, the criminal  justice system needs adequate
statistics. This is important from two perspectives. First,
because the general public are probably unaware of the scope
of the problem, hate crimes  have remained, to a large
extent, hidden from public view. Second, the system needs to
know  more about the nature and distribution of hate crimes
so that criminal justice as well as  community resources can
be most effectively employed. At the present, as can be seen
from  this report, we do not have adequate information about
hate crimes in Canada.

 Several options were reviewed for improving the
comprehensiveness of hate crime  statistics. One possibility
would be simply to encourage more police forces and special
interest groups to gather such data. This seems to be a weak
option. Sufficient variability  exists at the present time
in terms of the definition of hate crimes that a uniform,
national  approach is justified. This could consist of
passage of a Hate Crime Statistics Act (such as  the one
passed by the federal government in the United States), or
it might simply involve  modifying the Uniform Crime
Reporting Survey so that hate motivation would be included
in  the information recorded by the police officer.

An effective criminal justice response to hate crimes
involves a number of important elements. However, nothing is
more critical than having an accurate idea of the nature and
extent of the problem. This can only come about if a greater
effort is made to collect comprehensive statistics. At the
present, Canada lags far behind other nations in this
regard. This report represents the first, small step towards
documenting the incidence of this pernicious crime which by
its very nature strikes at the heart of a multicultural

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