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Hate crimes' rise in Vancouver show Jewish community most common target

Vancouver Sun logo Vancouver Sun 6 days ago Zak Vescera
a sign on the side of a building: Hate crimes' rise in Vancouver show Jewish community most common target © Provided by PostMedia Digital Hate crimes' rise in Vancouver show Jewish community most common target

Police statistics show that liberal Vancouver is far from immune to a nationwide rise in hate crime.

Statistics obtained by Postmedia via a freedom of information request show the number of hate crimes reported to Vancouver police grew from 47 to 75 between 2014 and 2017.

A total of 203 crimes were reported, most of which targeted ethnic and religious minorities.

Law enforcement officials say the trend continued in 2018 and is concurrent with the 47 per cent spike in reported crimes Statistics Canada noted across the country in the same time period.

“It seems to be concurrent with more nationalistic approaches in countries around the world,” said Vancouver police Sgt. Valerie Spicer.

“I don’t think Canada’s unique, either. I think there’s a lot of countries that are experiencing this. “

In Vancouver, which experienced the biggest rise of crimes of any StatsCan metro region between 2014 and 2017, the most common target of crimes was the Jewish community .

Between 2016 and 2017, the number of hate crimes against Jews reported to police, for example, jumped from one to 19.

Jewish communities in Vancouver were the most common victims of religious vandalism, like the discovery of Nazi symbols on a trail in Coquitlam last week.

LGBTQ2S+ communities, especially transgender people and gay men, were the most common targets of violent crime.

Ran Ukashi, the national director of B’nai Brith Canada, warns those stats only scratch the surface of hate-related incidents.

“Hate crimes tell one part of the picture — the most heinous form of that expression,” said Ukashi. “But usually there’s things that lead up to it.”

A hotline run by B’nai Brith noted a spike of 165 anti-Semitic incidents in 2017 in B.C. versus 374 in 2018.

A survey run by Statistics Canada in 2014 found 330,000 Canadians reported being the target of a hate crime. Two-thirds of those incidents were not reported to police.

Dr. Barbara Perry, director of the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism at the Ontario Insitute of Technology, has studied hate crime for decades.

She says part of the reason hate crime stats don’t tell the whole story is because there isn’t a standalone piece of legislation for what constitutes a hate crime.

“We don’t have a standalone piece of hate crime or hate-motivated crime legislation,” said Perry.

Instead, crimes that appear to be motivated by hate invoke Section 718.2 of the Canadian Criminal Code, which harshens sentencing but is not itself a distinct crime.

Statistics Canada reports only six per cent of non-violent hate crimes, like mischief, are ever cleared by charge.

“We really don’t have any way of telling how often that section is used. It’s not tracked at all.” said Perry.

Many anti-Semitic incidents, Ukashi says, might be clearly anti-Semitic but might not meet the steep criminal threshold for a crime and thus aren’t reported to police. Victims also may not report for fear of retaliation.

“They’re afraid of putting themselves at further risk,” said Ukashi.

Perry warns the sharp increase in hate crime in Vancouver, even if much of it is non-violent, is a sign that far-right movements are actively gaining traction in the city.

She notes that even if crimes like the swastika found in Coquitlam are non-violent, they still cause real harm to communities.

“It’s like being constantly reminded that you’re not valued, that your life isn’t valuable.” she said.

Spicer says it’s crucial that all hate crimes are reported to police, noting that even if it doesn’t result in a criminal charge it still allows them to gather intelligence on hateful activity in the city.

“Something that might be perceived as being verbal or a lesser offence such as mischief, which often comes in the form of graffiti, could lead to something more seriously,” she said. “That’s something that should never be underestimated in this day and age.”

zvescera@postmedia.com

twitter.com/zakvescera

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