Michael Ford (post until Oct. 31/18)

Hate crimes: the story behind the stats

While recent headlines suggest a surge in hate crimes against Muslims in Canada, such offences still amount to a small percentage — 0.07 per cent — of crimes, and may be attributed to increased awareness and not more prejudice, Toronto criminal and civil litigator Laurelly Dale writes in The Lawyer’s Daily.

This data means that Canadians are becoming aware that something like "graffiti on a mosque is a hate crime,” she says. “Canadians are reporting these incidents to the police because of successful campaigns from the National Council of Canadian Muslims and properly allocated resources in police departments.”

Dale, principal of Dale Legal Firm, says crime is difficult to measure. 

“The purpose of collecting crime data is to improve crime prevention and police-community relations,” she says. “By their own admission, Justice Canada acknowledges that changes over time should be ‘interpreted with caution.’ Statistics Canada relies on the Uniform Crime Reporting Survey (UCR2). The UCR2 collects data of reported crimes from police departments per incident.”

Dale says UCR2 data only captures crimes reported to the police. 

“It also only serves about 86 per cent of the population (Statistics Canada 2009),” she says. “We all know that a lot of crime is unreported for a variety of reasons. Crimes are recorded per incident, not pursuant to their severity in weight as compared to other crimes.”

Dale says that while it may appear as though there is a rise in violent crimes against Muslims based upon horrific events such as the Quebec City mosque shooting or the six Muslim students that were attacked at Queen’s University, there’s more to it than the numbers may suggest. 

Each attack is recorded as one incident and given "the same weight attributable to someone posting threatening messages on social media,” she says. “Lastly, the data collected includes incidents that have been both confirmed or 'strongly suspected' to be motivated by hate. This means that ‘suspected’ hate crimes could also be included in the data and impact its validity.”

Dale describes hate crimes as those “offences committed where there is evidence they are motivated by hate based on race, religion, ethnicity, or disability. 

“The House of Commons recently passed an anti-Islamophobia motion,” she notes. “The four types of hate crimes are: advocating genocide, public incitement of hatred, willful promotion of hatred or mischief motivated by hate. At sentencing, if it is found that the crime an accused has been convicted of was motivated by hate, this will be considered an aggravating factor and it is also categorized as a hate crime.”

Recent news headlines like “Hate Crimes Against Muslims in Canada Increase 253 per cent Over Four Years” are misleading, Dale says.

“There was a 17 per cent decrease in hate crimes between 2012-2013, specifically because of a decrease in violent crimes,” she says. 

“The actual number of hate crimes reported against Muslims in 2015 was 159 out of 1,362 hate crimes in total. Most of these crimes are non-violent mischief committed by youth, against female Muslims who are easier to identify because of head coverings. 

"The higher number also reflects an increase in the proportion of Canadians who are members of visible minorities which is expected to be one-third of Canadians by 2036 at the current rate (Statistics Canada 2015).”

Dale says similar media reports were found after 1983 when significant amendments were made to the Criminal Code of Canada related to sex offences. 

She says "there was an increase in reporting due to public awareness campaigns," and as a result, "rates for police-reported sexual offences nearly doubled and were steadily rising since 1983 (Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, 2004).”

The National Council of Canadian Muslims, a non-profit organization dedicated to challenging Islamophobia, has embarked on public awareness campaigns to influence Canadians to recognize certain acts of racism as hate crimes, Dale says. The organization also includes a section on their website where individuals can report an incident, she adds.

Police services in Canada can also influence the number of hate crimes reported through awareness campaigns, Dale says.

“The increase in the number of police-reported sex offences was due to public awareness and changing social norms, similar to the rise in hate crimes reported against Muslims,” she says. “These increases are superficial, influenced by external variables rather than reflecting a substantive increase.”

Dale says such incidents are increasingly being viewed as crimes by others, sharing a common goal of preventing their recurrence. 

“The more crimes reported, the higher the probability that they will be successfully processed through the criminal justice system,” she says.

“At sentencing, the court will denounce such conduct, deterring others from committing hate crimes against Muslims. The increase is Canada’s way of saying that this behaviour will no longer be tolerated and deserves punishment in the criminal justice system.” 

To Read More Laurelly Dale Posts Click Here
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