Vancouver continues to lead the country in reported gaybashings, which rose by 18 percent nationally from 2008 to 2009, a new Statistics Canada report reveals.
The StatsCan findings show homophobia fuelled 29 more hate crimes in 2009 than in 2008 nationally, for a total of 188 cases compared to 159 the previous year. In 2007, there were 71.
The June 7 report shows the majority of gaybashings committed in Canada — 74 percent — involved violent offences such as assault. Of those, 63 percent resulted in physical injuries. In other hate crimes, 39 percent of victims of racially motivated incidents and 23 percent of those based on religious motivation involved injuries.
In 2008, StatsCan data indicated that 75 percent of reported gaybashings were violent, compared to 38 percent of racially motivated incidents and 25 percent of religiously motivated incidents.
Police reported no hate-motivated homicides in 2009.
Vancouver, Toronto and Ottawa led the way for numbers of gaybashings, with 44, 42 and 13 incidents, respectively. There were 10 cases in Montreal.
The report notes there is no data available on the use of Criminal Code hate crime provisions for court sentencing. But, it adds, it is possible to examine the number of court cases involving charges for hate crime-related offences.
“This information shows that relatively few hate crime cases are completed in Canadian courts,” the report says.
In 2009/2010, adult courts completed 14 cases involving at least one hate-crime charge, the report adds.
Ron Stipp of West Enders Against Violence Everywhere has been following cases of Vancouver bashings closely for a number of years.
“I find it really disturbing that we continue to have a high level of bashings after all the work everybody has done, including the police,” Stipp tells Xtra.
He says it’s not just the activists and the politicians who need to step up and denounce hate crimes. “It’s the faith leaders and the business leaders; they need to start doing that.”
With regard to the Criminal Code hate crime provisions, Stipp notes Vancouver’s queer community has been pleased with the courts’ use of those provisions in high profile cases such as those involving Shawn Woodward and Michael Kandola, who were convicted in assault cases and had hate designations added.
“The judges and Crown seem to be going in the right direction,” Stipp says.
The StatsCan report says race or ethnicity remained the top motivation for hate crimes at 54 percent, while religion accounted for 29 percent and sexual orientation, 13 percent.
Drawing on 2009 information from police services across Canada, StatsCan found 1,473 hate crimes reported overall, up 42 percent from 2008.
Of these, 55 percent were motivated by religion, 35 percent by race or ethnicity and 16 percent by sexual orientation.
The report notes the numbers may not reflect the true extent of hate crime activity in Canada, as not all incidents are reported.
“Self-reported information from the 2009 General Social Survey suggests that about one-third (34 percent) of incidents perceived by respondents to have been motivated by hate were subsequently reported to police. It is quite likely that had all incidents been reported to police, at least some would have met the legal definition and evidentiary requirements of a hate crime,” the report says.
The report notes year-to-year changes in the rates of police-reported hate crimes aren’t reliable indicators of increases or decreases in the actual incidence of the type of offence. It says the number of incidents reported in a given year can be influenced by many factors such as the existence (or absence) of specialized hate crime units within police services, training initiatives, zero-tolerance policies, victim assistance programs, hotlines and community awareness campaigns.
“In other words, the rate of hate crime in a given area may be more indicative of reporting practices by the public and local police services rather than of prevalence levels,” it says.
Vancouver West End MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert says such a finding indicates the need for both public awareness campaigns and increased anti-homophobia education in schools, as promised by BC Premier Christy Clark.