Farber: The under reporting of hate crimes in Canada

Of note:

Seven months after 58-year-old Mohamed-Aslim Zafis was brutally slain outside a Rexdale mosque, Toronto police have released a new report that details statistics and specific types of hate-motivated offences committed against individuals in 2020.

Zafis’s killing is not among those crimes.

The glaring omission of the slaying is striking — especially consideringZafis’s family and the community itself pleaded with police to treat it as a hate crime.

When the suspect’s name was released, the Canadian Anti-Hate Network immediately reviewed his social media. Our findings suggested that the suspect is someone who subscribes to the most dangerous hate-promoting conspiracy theories, including “the Great Replacement.”

The theory dangerously asserts that white Europeans — and North Americans — are being intentionally replaced through immigration and low birth rates. While the original theory focused on an alleged Muslim invasion, more recent proponents of the theory overlay it with antisemitism

In August 2017, it inspired over 200 American neo-Nazis to march in Charlottesville, Virginia, in a torch light parade bellowing “Jews will not replace us,” injuries, and the tragic murder of anti-racist Heather Heyer by one of the white supremacists. 

In March 2019, another hate-monger attacked the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, N.Z., murdering 51 innocent Muslims and leaving 40 injured. The New Zealand government’s Royal Commission on the attack singled out the terrorist’s belief in the Great Replacement as one motivating racist factor.

While the story of Zafis’s death made worldwide news, the issue of police not treating what are arguably self-evident hate crimes as hate crimes is not new.

An Angus Reid survey, released in mid-2020, revealed that almost one-third of Chinese Canadians report being physically attacked during the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet only 12 incidents of hate-motivated crimes against Chinese Canadians are included in the report. 

Studies tell us that only one to five per cent of hate incidents in Canada are reported to police. The real number of hate crimes and incidents is actually 20 to 100 times higher.

Members of communities targeted by hate-motivated attacks often don’t report them. In some cases, the number of victims who don’t report is over two-thirds. When attacks are reported, the police treat many as unfounded — they either don’t believe the victim, don’t see the point in pursuing the report, or are unsuccessful in their investigations. They only report forward a small subset that they have at least partially successfully investigated. 

Laudably, Toronto police made an arrest within a week of Zafis’s slaying. So why was his death not included in the 2020 hate crimes report? Some answers may lie in a new study by Barbara Perry of Ontario Tech University’s Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism that involved interviewing police officers in Ontario. 

Officers expressed frustrations with the process. The only hate crime under the Criminal Code is wilful promotion of hatred. Other offences, such as assault or vandalism, could be subject to enhanced sentencing provisions if the offence is hate-motivated, with police providing evidence to the Crown. Officers told Perry that they are usually not successful and cases just “disappear into a vacuum.” 

Some officers candidly admitted that they feel police departments are falling short in their obligations to ensure communities feel comfortable coming forward. 

“I don’t think we do enough to ensure the community feels that it will be taken seriously,” one officer noted.

So, then, what does this tell the Muslim community when Zafis’s slaying is not counted among hate crimes? 

The alleged killer’s YouTube channel had saved xenophobic videos perpetuating the myth of roving migrant gangs, and clips from Russian propaganda outlets about the “Belgian Muslim State.” 

And, of course, the Great Replacement. 

It isn’t hard to draw the line between those toxic ideas and the cold-blooded killing of a Muslim man serving his community in front of his neighbourhood mosque. 

Surely one can understand the fear within racialized communities when self-evident hate crimes like the Zafis death is not seen as such.

According to the new report, hate crimes in Toronto have risen 51 per cent. But considering only 1 to 5 per cent of hate incidents and crimes are reported, the question remains: what about the other 95 per cent?

Source: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/2021/04/27/the-under-reporting-of-hate-crimes-in-canada.html

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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