3 min

Stats Canada: Vancouver first again in reported gaybashings

Still a 'long, long march to equality': Chandra Herbert

Vancouver remained Canada’s capital for reported gaybashings in 2010, despite an overall 18 percent drop in hate crimes in Canada’s biggest cities and a drop in gaybashings of 5.6 percent, new Statistics Canada numbers show.

While Toronto had more individual gaybashings than Vancouver — 35 compared to 30 — the percentage of gaybashings out of the total number of hate crimes in Vancouver was 26 percent of 117 crimes compared to 11.6 percent of 302 in Toronto.

“Any hate crime is disturbing,” says Vancouver West End MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert, “but to see statistics [like that] is really disturbing.”

In other parts of Canada, Ottawa had 15 gaybashings, Montreal 13, Edmonton seven, Quebec City five, Calgary five, Hamilton four and Winnipeg one.

Overall, Canadian police services reported 1,401 hate crimes in 2010, or a rate of 4.1 hate crimes per 100,000 population, Statistics Canada reported. There were 1,482 in 2009 and 1,036 in 2008.

“Consistent with findings from past years, three motivations accounted for most hate crime: race or ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation,” the report by Cara Dowden and Shannon Brennan states. “The highest rates of hate crime were among youth and young adults as both victims and accused persons.”

Crimes based on sexual orientation accounted for 15.5 percent of reported crimes motivated by hate. Of those total crimes, hate motivation fuelled 10 fewer gaybashings in 2010 than the year before, with 178 hate crimes based on sexual orientation compared to 188 in 2009 and 159 in 2008. In 2007, there were 71 nationally.

Moreover, the severity of gaybashings also dropped, with 65.2 percent of attacks being violent compared to 74 percent in 2009 and 75 percent in 2008. In comparison, 34 percent of racially motivated hate crimes and 17 percent of religiously motivated hate crimes were violent.

But hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation in 2010 were also more likely than other types to result in physical injury to victims, according to the report. Injuries were reported in 59 percent of violent incidents motivated by sexual orientation, compared to 40 percent of racially motivated violent incidents and 14 percent of religiously motivated violent incidents. For all three motivations, the majority of injuries sustained in violent incidents were relatively minor in nature, possibly requiring some first aid, the report, posted on Statistics Canada’s website in April, said.

Some 57 percent of hate crimes were committed by strangers, 39 percent by friends or acquaintances, and the remaining four percent by family members. The report notes that in the past 20 years, Canada’s population has diversified in many ways, with increases in the visible minority population, shifts in religious participation and more same-sex relationships. “Some research has suggested that demographic shifts in the population can lead to discrimination or bias, which may further develop into hate crimes,” the report says.

Hate crimes motivated by race remained the most significant in all major cities. Nationally, hate crimes committed against blacks accounted for approximately 20 percent of the total number of hate crimes and 39 percent of those motivated by race or ethnicity. Calgary had a higher percentage of attacks based on ethnicity than any other factor, while Winnipeg had the highest percentage of attacks based on religious discrimination.

The report notes that police-reported hate crimes may be either “suspected” or “confirmed.” “Incidents are suspected to be hate crimes when there are enough hate elements present for the offence to be investigated as a hate crime,” the report says. “An incident is confirmed to be a hate crime when, through the course of investigation, police determine that hate was the primary motive for the offence.” According to the results of the 2009 General Social Survey on Victimization, victims who perceived an incident to be motivated by hate were more likely than those who did not to state that an incident had affected them emotionally.

The most common emotional reactions to perceived hate crimes were anger (38 percent), feeling upset, confused or frustrated (25 percent), and fear (20 percent).

The Statistics Canada report notes criminal sentencing provisions allow for increased penalties when hate is determined to be an aggravating factor in any criminal offence. “However, there are no data currently available from the Integrated Criminal Court Survey on the use of these sentencing provisions,” the report says.

BC Supreme Court Justice Joel Groves established a judicial test to determine if an attack was a hate-motivated gaybashing in the Michael Kandola decision in 2010. Kandola was convicted April 30, 2010, of assaulting Jordan Smith in Vancouver’s gay village. In order for him to rule the assault a hate crime, Justice Groves said the Crown needed to prove homophobic language was used before, during or after the assault; that the attack occurred in a gay area; that there was no previous interaction between the parties; and that no alternate explanation was available.

Groves said Crown counsel Dasein Nearing had proven those factors.

The test was again used in the case of Shawn Woodward for his attack on Ritchie Dowrey at the Fountainhead Pub in Vancouver. His conviction was upheld on appeal.

To reduce hate crime, “we’ve got to start with our youth and take it through the system,” Chandra Herbert says. “It’s that long, long march to equality.