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New StatsCan report shows decline in reported gaybashings

But anti-gay hate crimes still more likely to be violent, report shows

A new report from Statistics Canada shows that violent gaybashings dropped nationally 23 percent from 2011 to 2012.  Credit: Thinkstock

As gay people from around the world converged on Toronto for WorldPride June 20 to 29, news came from Statistics Canada that violent gaybashings across the country had dropped 23 percent from 2011 to 2012.

Of the crimes in Canada motivated by homophobia and reported to police, the statistics show that gay men are targeted four out of five times, and 56 percent of those targets are under 25 years old.

Police recorded 185 incidents motivated by anti-gay hatred in 2012, down from 240 such incidents the previous year, according to the Statistics Canada report, entitled “Police-Reported Hate Crime in Canada, 2012,” released on June 26.

Of the reported incidents motivated by homophobia, 67 percent were violent crimes, the most common being assault. Of the reported assaults, 15 percent were considered more serious, involving either a weapon or causing bodily harm; one incident was charged as an aggravated assault.

Only a quarter of the anti-gay reported incidents were classified as mischief.

Two out of three people accused of committing a crime motivated by anti-gay prejudice were under 25 years old, and three-quarters of the accused were male.

In addition to hate crimes motivated by anti-gay prejudice, police in Canada recorded 1,229 incidents in 2012 motivated by other forms of hate, targeting such areas as race, religion and ethnicity. That’s a six-percent increase, or 82 more hate-motivated crimes committed compared to 2011, the report shows.

Overall, 51 percent of the police-reported hate crimes in 2012 were motivated by hatred of race or ethnicity. Thirty percent were motivated by religion and 13 percent by sexual orientation.

Unlike the hate crimes specifically motivated by homophobia — which are more often assault than mischief — 69 percent of the overall reported hate crimes in 2012 were non-violent, with mischief as the most commonly reported offence.

However, almost a third (31 percent) of the overall police-reported hate crimes in 2012 did involve violent offences, such as assault, uttering threats and criminal harassment. But this represents a 16 percent decline in reported violent hate crimes since 2011, the report shows.

Among the reported hate crimes, anti-gay incidents were far more likely to be violent assaults. Violent assaults targeting race/ethnicity accounted for only 32 percent of the hate crimes in that category — a 21 percent decline since the previous year. Only 13 percent of hate crimes targeting religion were violent.

The majority of police-reported hate-crime incidents in 2012 were concentrated in Canada’s major urban centres, with 35 percent occurring in Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver.

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, nearly half of Canada’s registered same-sex couples (both married and common-law) lived in Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver.

About half of Canada’s overall tally of police-reported hate crimes in 2012 were reported in Ontario (53 percent). While some other provinces reported higher-percentage increases in the number of hate crimes, Ontario’s 64-incident increase made up the bulk of the total rise in police-reported hate crimes, primarily because of improvements in hate-crime reporting in Hamilton and Thunder Bay.

Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Yukon and Nunavut also reported small increases.

The largest declines in the number of police-reported hate crimes overall were recorded in Manitoba and British Columbia. In BC, the number of hate crimes specifically targeting gay people also declined, from 55 reported incidents in 2011 to 30 in 2012.

According to the report, police services across Canada have continued to improve their identification and reporting of hate-crime incidents in the last two decades. “Changes in reporting practices can have an effect on hate crime statistics,” it says. “For example, the change in the number of hate crime incidents in 2012 is notably influenced by improvements in reporting in Hamilton and Thunder Bay.”

The existence of a dedicated hate-crime unit or hate-crime programs within a police service can also make a significant difference, the report suggests.

Laurentian University sociologist Gary Kinsman, co-author of The Canadian War on Queers, tells Xtra that statistics are only as good as the methods used to collect and report them. “Since this is based on complaints to the police, they are underreported, and if they are related to other forms of harassment, like racist or sexual harassment, they may not get reported as being in relation to queer sexualities,” Kinsman says. “They again pinpoint that a major problem is the social construction of hetero-hegemonic masculinities with the almost ‘normal’ generation of violence towards queers.”