A 21-year-old Hamilton man was assaulted at 3am on Oct 3 in what police are treating as a hate crime. The man, who has not been identified by police, suffered a broken nose and serious facial injuries.
A 20-year-old man was arrested in connection with the incident after he allegedly bragged about the assault while having his injured hand tended to at a local hospital later that morning. David Venturelli is charged with assault causing bodily harm and breach of probation.
“He was quite proud he had assaulted the man earlier that morning,” Hate Crimes Unit Manager Det Sgt Chris Kiriakopoulos told the Hamilton Spectator.
A second man has also been arrested in connection with the assault.
Although initial reports indicated that the incident occurred inside local gay nightclub the Embassy, others indicated on that the assault took place on the bar’s patio or just outside.
News that the gaybashing occurred in or near the club didn’t surprise past Hamilton Pride chair Joe Whelan.
“One of the reasons Hamilton Pride Festival Inc distanced themselves from the Embassy Club this year was because we were seeing an increase in hate motivated crime/gay bashing with ties to the Embassy Club,” says Whelan. “Members of our LGBTQ community were telling us they weren’t feeling safe there.”
On Dec 9, 2007 two other assaults were perpetrated in separate incidents against two men leaving the bar. Two men were charged by police in connection with those incidents.
On the afternoon of Oct 6 the police and Hamilton’s GLBT Police Task Force held a community meeting to discuss safety issues in the wake of the most recent assault. Fifteen people attended including Kiriakopoulos and Hamilton police’s community relations officer Sandra Wilson. Participants recommended that police meet with the Embassy owner and called for a second meeting to be held at a time when more community members would be likely to attend.
“My own personal impression,” says Jae Adams, chair of the Visibility, Homophobia, Transphobia and Heterosexism subcommittee of the Hamilton Positive Space Collaborative (HPSC), “is that we are relying on the police service to provide the answer for us when the true answer will come from our own community.”
Adams says the HPSC subcommittee will be working with members of The Well — Hamilton’s queer community centre — to hold their own community meeting to discuss a response to violence against homos that will include developing reporting tools for victims of bashing and strategies to prevent assaults on queers, such as a walk safe program.
Participants at the community meeting noted that although the most recent assault is being treated as a hate crime it is unlikely that will make a difference when it comes to prosecution or, in the event of conviction, sentencing.
“The futility [in prosecuting a hate crimes] leads to lack of interest in reporting and putting people through the wringer for a slight chance at a higher sentence,” says Adams.
A hate crime is defined as a criminal offence that is motivated by hate toward an identifiable group. According to the 2006 Hate Crime Report prepared for the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics 10 percent of hate crimes reported to the study by police were committed as a result of the victim’s known or suspected sexual orientation.
In Hamilton last year, there were 61 hate-motivated incidents reported to police, although only 19 qualified as hate crimes. Of those initial 61 complaints, 13 had to do with sexual orientation, including four assaults.