A latest report from B.C.’s human rights commissioner has confirmed hate-related incidents rose exponentially throughout the first years of the COVID-19 pandemic, affecting people from every corner of the province during one of the vital divisive periods in its history.
The report published Tuesday showed how hate affected people across the province each at home and in public on the premise of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion and more — though the spike in anti-Asian hate was “particularly acute.”
“While hate shouldn’t be latest, the pandemic marks a period in our collective experience that has been stuffed with fear, mistrust, division and hate,” B.C. Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender said at a news conference.
“It’s also a period by which we have now seen a remarkable degree of collective care,” she added. “Public awareness about racism and its real impacts on the lives of racialized people has grown significantly [and] communities have stepped up to indicate solidarity to those most affected and to talk out against hate.”
The nearly 500-page report is the results of a comprehensive public inquiry called to look at the foundation explanation for the reported rise in hate throughout the pandemic and recommend potential solutions. Govender said she believes the inquiry to be the primary of its kind within the country.
Incidents ranged from hateful slurs to physical attacks. The report found the federal government and the criminal justice system have not been effective when it comes to holding people to account, for a wide range of reasons, but community-based organizations performed higher with proper funding.
Community crisis centres, for instance, were capable of support an increasing number of girls experiencing intimate-partner violence throughout the early months of the pandemic after they received emergency relief funding from Ottawa.
B.C. saw certainly one of largest increases in police-reported hate: report
Hate incidents are defined within the report as hate-motivated actions or words meant to humiliate, dehumanize and silence an individual based on their personal characteristics — perceived or real.
The report said B.C. saw certainly one of the biggest increases in hate crimes being reported to police from 2019 to 2020, in line with Statistics Canada figures.
The number rose from 1,951 incidents in 2019 to 2,646 the next 12 months — a 35 per cent rise that remains to be likely an under-representation, provided that many don’t report such crimes to police.
Police-reported crimes targeting Asian populations rose 482 per cent in that 12 months, while those against Black people went up 115 per cent.
“That was hard to read due to all of the stories, and knowing Asian seniors [and] women like myself and youth were particularly targeted … however it’s really vital that we’re sharing that story,” said Trixie Ling, who spoke out and filed a police report after a white man taunted her with anti-Asian slurs and spat on her in Vancouver in 2020.
“I believe that is just the beginning of how we discuss accountability and healing, each inside the federal government but additionally inside our own community,” she added in an interview Tuesday.
“I believe that is pointing us to say that all of us should take a collective responsibility and motion to work against hate.”
Violence against women, particularly intimate partner violence, also became more common throughout the pandemic, though the commission noted those incidents are “rarely considered” as hate crimes under the law or in society and data shouldn’t be all the time consistent across authorities.
The report made a dozen recommendations including a call to create a centralized system for reporting hate in addition to latest standards for policing, including a requirement that each one police departments have no less than one specialist trained in hate crimes.
The commission also called on social media platforms to make quite a lot of changes, including overhauling algorithms to assist bury discriminatory content and stop ads from appearing with hateful posts.
Data gaps exist despite ‘mountain of evidence’
The statistics were a small portion in reams of proof the commissioner gathered through dozens of hearings, written submissions, polls, surveys, research reports, an in-person gathering with Indigenous elders and knowledge requests to each police department within the province.
“Once you’ve traversed this mountain of evidence, it becomes unattainable to disclaim that we’re at a reckoning,” Govender said.
The inquiry, which began in 2021, also found the legal system cannot properly address hate crimes due to problems from the police-reporting stage of the method through to the courts.
Many do not feel protected reporting crimes to police. Those that do may be met by officers and prosecutors who’re “conservative” about pursuing charges, the report said.
Based on statistics from Statistics Canada, police, prosecutors and the courts, the commission estimated “the true number” of hate incidents within the province from 2015 and 2021 to be around 20,000.
Lower than 1 / 4 of those were reported to police. Only six people were charged with hate crimes under sections of the Criminal Code specifically referring to hate propaganda, public hatred and mischief — with just three convictions.
“These numbers show that while criminal prosecution for hate crimes is one vital piece of accountability, it’s failing to deliver justice for most individuals,” Govender said Tuesday.
The report didn’t include cases where hate was an aggravating factor at sentencing because that data is not systematically tracked through the courts.
The complex, expensive civil justice system and severe delays with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal are also problematic.
People did, nevertheless, find help in the neighborhood. Many told the commission about how they found “strength, support and connection” within the organizations and other people around them, the report said.
More motion needed, advocate says
The report was filled with words, but not enough motion items, in line with Rabbi Philip Bregman.
“It’s got to be actionable,” he said. “When the coach sends in a play to the quarterback, it might probably’t be 20 minutes in discussing what the play is within the huddle. It’s got to be actionable. And I believe the identical thing needs to be done in schools and in life, things that we are able to do on a really real basis.”
Bregman was a part of an event at a Vancouver highschool on Tuesday geared toward helping students higher understand and reply to racism and hate.
“That is the longer term,” Bregman said. “These are the individuals who’re going to be in our homes of parliament, running our schools, our businesses being involved. We here in Canada, we have now lots of work to do.”
He said his group, The Other People, is educating older students, encouraging youth to”get out of their bubbles,” and take a look at to know one another.
“Anti-racism can’t be legislated,” Bregman said. “Anti-racism needs to be lived, it needs to be felt.”