3 min

Gaybashings up across Canada in 2011: Stats Can

Better anti-homophobia education needed, advocates say

A new report shows a 10-percent increase in gaybashings in Canada in 2011. Credit:

There were 240 gaybashings in Canada in 2011, an increase of 10 percent over the year before, which saw 218, says a study released by Statistics Canada on July 11.

That increase compares to a 5.6 percent drop in gaybashings between 2009 and 2010.

For Ross Johnstone, director of education for Vancouver’s Out in Schools program, which brings anti-homophobia presentations to BC schools, the numbers come as a shock.

"It's all the more reason to be specifically including LGBT language within the policies at the school district level and the provincial level," he says. "We're seeing that in other provinces, like Quebec and Manitoba."

Johnstone hopes the statistics spur the BC government to include anti-homophobia language in its ERASE (Expect Respect and a Safe Education) Bullying strategy.

Premier Christy Clark introduced the strategy in June 2012 with promises to ensure every child feels safe, accepted and respected, regardless of gender, race, culture, religion or sexual orientation.

Even as gaybashings rose across the country, the overall number of reported hate-motivated crimes fell by five percent, from 1,401 to 1,332, says the report by Mary Allen and Jillian Boyce, of the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics.

Of the 1,332 hate-motivated incidents reported to police in 2011, 18 percent were related to sexual orientation, 52 percent to race or ethnicity, and 25 percent to religion.

Of the 240 reported gaybashings, 168 took place in Ontario, 55 in BC, 28 in Quebec, 19 in Alberta, seven in each of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, five in Saskatchewan, four in Manitoba, two in Newfoundland and Labrador, one in each of the Yukon and Northwest Territories and none in Nunavut.

The rate of hate crime in general in Ontario was 5.2 per 100,000 population, but the highest rates were in the Northwest Territories and Prince Edward Island, which respectively recorded rates of 11.4 and 8.2 per 100,000 population. Prince Edward Island reported 12 hate crimes in 2011, while the Northwest Territories reported five.

Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver accounted for 38 percent of reported hate crimes. 

Unlike previous years, gaybashing statistics were not reported for individual cities.

Overall, the percentage of violent hate crimes increased from 34 percent in 2010 to 39 percent in 2011. Gay people are most often the targets of violent hate-motivated incidents. 

In 65 percent of reported cases of hate-motivated assaults and uttering threats, gay people were the targets, as was essentially the case in 2010 as well. 

In 2008 and 2009, gay people were targeted in 75 and 74 percent, respectively, of hate-motivated assaults and threats.

Violent hate crimes targeting gay people resulted in physical injuries nearly half the time.

Of the gay people targeted in violent hate crimes, 85 percent were men, the study shows.

Men are also targeted 75 percent of the time in cases of hate-motivated violent crime in general.

Victims of anti-gay hate crimes tended to be younger, too, with 50 percent under age 25.

Young men are predominantly accused of committing crimes motivated by hate. Of those accused in 2011, 88 percent were men, and 60 percent were under 25, the report says. 

Anti-gay hate crimes had the highest proportion (70 percent) of accused under age 25 and the highest proportion of accused male perpetrators, at 92 percent.

While Statistics Canada doesn't collect information on individuals’ sexual orientation, it does provide information on family structure, which offers insight into where gay people congregate. In 2011, same-sex couple families (both married and common-law) accounted for one percent of all couples in Canada, with 46 percent of those couples residing in Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver.

The report notes that the availability of information on hate crimes is subject to people reporting offences.

The number of incidents actually reported to police as hate crimes may be influenced by public awareness and concern, as well as special hate-crime initiatives and policies among police services, the report says.

"The presence (or absence) of a dedicated hate crime unit or training program within a particular police service may influence the resources available for the investigation of a hate crime," it says. "Similarly, the presence (or absence) of community support programs, public awareness campaigns, zero tolerance policies, and victim assistance programs may impact the willingness or ability of community members to report incidents to police."

Research shows that only about one-third of people targeted report the hate-motivated incident to police, the report says.

According to 2009 research, 91 percent of victims who perceived an incident to be motivated by hate said they were emotionally affected by the incident, compared to 81 percent of victims who did not perceive the incident to be hate-motivated.

The most common emotional reactions for victims who perceived the crimes to be motivated by hate were anger, feeling upset, confusion, frustration and fear.