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Only severe gaybashings reported to police

Data still spotty, comprehensive tracking not done

HOW ACCURATE? Only hate crime incidents that were reported to police are included in the recent Statistics Canada report. Credit: (Xtra.ca file photo)

Hate-motivated crimes against gays tend to be more violent and result in more injuries than hate crimes against other groups, according to new data from Statistics Canada. The data also suggests that only the most egregious gay-related hate crimes ever get reported to police.

Among reported hate crimes, those motivated by sexuality were most likely to be violent, at 56 percent. Of hate crimes motivated by race, 38 percent were violent. When religion was the motivator, 26 percent were violent.

Gays and lesbians were also more likely to suffer physical injuries during reported incidents. The aggregate data failed to clearly quantify transphobic violence.

The data was culled from police reports. Therefore, only incidents that were brought to police attention were counted.

Helen Kennedy is the executive director of Egale, Canada’s national gay lobby group.

“The system isn’t conducive to encouraging people to actually report crime,” she says. “There is a whole number of scenarios that wouldn’t be conducive to you coming forward if you were the victim of a hate crime or gaybashing.”

Statistics Canada did not track how many of those cases were successfully prosecuted. The report found that, out of a total of 892 incidents, 80 were gay-related. That shows that gays are still not reporting gaybashings, says Kennedy.

Calgary, Kingston and Ottawa were the top three cities for hate crimes in 2006. John Byers from the Ottawa Police Service believes that Ottawa’s numbers were inflated relative to the rest of the country.

“I think we have very good relations within many of our diverse communities, and therefore we encourage reporting,” says Byers. “I think the statistics show a sense that because we have a dedicated service, people are more comfortable reporting.”

Murray Mollard is the executive director of the BC Civil Liberties Association. He stresses the importance of hate-crime provisions in Canada’s criminal code. Although he alludes to the importance of freedom of speech, Mollard said that the courts must step in when an individual or group acts on their hatred.

“We often make this distinction between conduct and beliefs, and while (the BCCLA) will protect strongly the ability of people to hold beliefs and express attitudes and viewpoints that, quite frankly, can be hateful, we draw the line where the articulation of those ideas becomes conduct in a way that is criminal,” he says.

Comprehensive data about the frequency and severity of hate crimes has never been available. This report used police reports from Canada’s biggest municipalities, which account for 87 percent of the Canadian population.

One of the authors of the Statistics Canada report, Mia Dauvergne, works for the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics.

She says that because different police forces use different records-management systems, they have varying abilities to report hate-crime statistics.

The RCMP uses a different system than many municipalities, and Quebec-based forces also use an entirely different program, Dauvergne says.

“The plan is with each year that we will actually build upon the data that is reported to us. In other words, more and more police services will have the capability of reporting it to us,” she says.