Toronto Sun editorial: Learning from the hijab hoax

Unfortunately in the era of social media, immediate responses are required. However, the suggested disclaimer – “If what has been alleged is true” – is sound advice:

Since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Toronto Mayor John Tory didn’t say it, we will.

The problem with Toronto’s now infamous hijab hoax is that it will make Muslims and others who are actual victims of hate crimes more afraid to come forward for fear of not being believed.

And it will make the public more cynical about the reporting of hate crimes.

We aren’t going to fault the prime minister, the premier or the mayor for assuming the initial report of an 11-year-old child describing how she had been attacked by an “Asian man” who twice tried to cut her hijab with scissors was true.

Many people believed it was true. We reported it on our front page.

But once Toronto police said, following their investigation, that no attack had occurred, it was incumbent on Trudeau, Wynne and Tory to stress the dangers of anyone falsely claiming to be the victim of a hate crime, or for that matter any crime.

Instead, they ran for cover, saying only that they were glad that no attack had occurred but that it was important to continue to be vigilant about fighting hatred and racism.

Of course it’s important to fight hatred and racism, but that’s not the lesson to be learned from what happened in this case.

The lesson in this case is that when a school board and municipal, provincial and federal politicians leap to conclusions before all the facts are known, the revelations of those facts can lead to the very thing they hoped to avoid — public cynicism about the reporting of hate crimes.

When the media wrongly identify a member of a minority group as the perpetrator of a crime, politicians are the first to condemn them.

Why then their silence when they wrongly identify a member of minority group as the victim of a crime?

The next time a crime of this nature is alleged, we suggest our political leaders say words to the effect of: “If what has been alleged is true, it’s completely unacceptable in our city (or province, or country) and we are confident the police will treat this matter seriously and investigate it thoroughly.”

Which, by the way, is exactly what happened.

Source: EDITORIAL: Learning from the hijab hoax

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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