Alberta cancels decades-old grant for anti-racism initiatives

Part of overall cuts, although Jason Kenney was sceptical of these kinds of grants when federal minister (not without reason):

A grant that helped fund anti-racism and anti-discrimination programs for decades in Alberta has been eliminated under the budget cuts of the United Conservative government.

The Alberta Human Rights Commission’s Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund, valued at $1 million per year, has been dissolved, according to Cam Stewart, the Commission’s manager of communications. The grant, he said, has existed in some form or another since 1988.

Stewart said the grant has helped fund initiatives and projects across the province that dealt with education and raising awareness about discrimination, racism, and issues marginalized communities face in Alberta. For example, the grant has helped fund the Alberta Hate Crimes Committee, which has been working since 2002 to develop resources and best practices that address hate-motivated crimes in Alberta.

Star Edmonton reached out to the office of Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Justice, for comment on the cancellation of this grant, but did not receive a response in time for publication.

According to Statistics Canada, the number of reported hate crimes has risen in both Edmonton and Calgary from 2016 to 2018. Both cities saw a combined total of 149 hate crime incidents in 2018, up from 103 in 2016 — a 45 per cent increase.

With the rise of reported hate crime incidents in Alberta and Canada as a whole, Irfan Chaudhry, Director of MacEwan University’s Office of Human Rights and Equity, said an appetite for education and awareness in Alberta has been increasing, and many of those education programs are funded by the Multiculturalism Grants program.

“There’s still a lot of division that us as Canadians maybe haven’t acknowledged, and these types of programs at least provide the space for targeted approaches for these conversations to happen,” Chaudhry said.

The grant helped fund one of Chaudhry’s projects — a podcast out of MacEwan University that was geared towards exploring narratives of hate and counter-hate in Alberta, and opening up honest conversations about these issues. He said he was hoping to tap into the grant’s funding for similar projects in the future as well.

“Because the grant is gone, there isn’t a comparable funding stream available locally, and that’s definitely going to impact future variations of projects like this,” Chaudhry said.

Stewart said the grant not only helped fund educational initiatives about racism and discrimination on a smaller scale, but also on a more systemic scale. The grant, for example, helped fund training programs on harassment and bullying in the workplace for human resources professionals, and sensitivity training for nurses about discrimination against Indigenous people in the healthcare system.

“(These projects) empowered people to address issues so they could fully participate in society without discrimination,” Stewart said.

Both Chaudhry and Helen Rusich, a program manager at REACH Edmonton who has worked on various anti-discrimination initatives in the city, expressed concerns on what the cancellation of this grant would mean as hate crimes become a more prevalent issue in society.

Rusich, who most recently worked on the Coalitions Creating Equity under the grant’s funding to develop educational material on hate crimes and hate incidents, called the government’s decision to cancel the grant “shortsighted.” She said it will be detrimental to the province in the long-run if issues of hate and racism against marginalized communities go unaddressed.

“Mosques are attacked, synagogues are attacked,” Rusich said. “I think the cost is huge, not just the emotional cost but the economic cost as well.”

Chaudhry said the funding cut also sends a message that the new government doesn’t consider racism and discrimination in the province to be an important issue that needs to be addressed.

“Collectively, this sends a strong message in terms of where priorities are for addressing racial discrimination in our province,” Chaudhry said. “It’s not looking good.”

According to Stewart, no other grant funding exists on a provincial that is aimed specifically at tackling issues of racism and discrimination in Alberta. The only funding available would now be through the Federal government, but Choudhry said those programs are not as localized, and exist on a much larger scope.

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Stewart said the Alberta Human Rights Commission is now looking for other means of funding to honour grant commitments they have already made, as well as to support future projects. Rusich said REACH Edmonton is now exploring either municipal or provincial funding to continue the work of Coalitions Creating Equity across the province.

“We will continue to do this work because it is so necessary,” Rusich said.

Source: Alberta cancels decades-old grant for anti-racism initiatives

How much hate crime does Canada have? Without a standard definition, no one knows for sure

I don’t fully understand the Alberta Human Rights Commission’s point given that the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) system used to identify and report on hate crimes and is used by police forces and Statistics Canada for annual reporting.

There may well be consistency issues between officers and police forces, or inadequate guidelines, but complete absence?

Police departments across Canada have different ideas of what constitutes a hate crime, a new CBC investigation shows.

As a result, experts say it’s impossible to have accurate numbers that show which communities are struggling.

Police departments use different definitions of hate crime, which means how crimes are identified as hate-motivated differs from region to region and even among police officers investigating complaints. Some municipalities have comprehensive definitions that include gender identity and expression, while others have no formal definition at all.

The lack of a countrywide definition means Canadians don’t have an accurate reflection of how prevalent hate crime really is, says Stephen Camp, president of the Alberta Human Rights Commission’s hate crimes committee.

That means the federal government, he says, has no idea where to put resources to stop it.

Statistics Canada numbers show there were 1,798 hate crimes in Canada last year, Camp said, but there were likely more than that.

“What needs to occur for a number of reasons, not just for statistical gathering, is to have a national definition of hate crime incorporated into the Criminal Code,” he told CBC News.

Without a standard definition, he said, the current statistics are “not an accurate number of what’s going on in Canada.”

Consideration in sentencing

The Criminal Code of Canada has sections around hate propaganda, specifically advocating for genocide. It has sections for the public incitement of hatred and mischief relating to religious property. But it only considers “hate crime” as part of how someone is sentenced, not in the initial charge itself.

The current statistics, Camp said, show “the leaders in our society that the problem is not as bad as it sometimes is purported to be,” he said. “Then that equals insufficient resourcing and insufficient policies and legislation.”

Some services, like the Ottawa Police Service, define a hate crime as one motivated by “hate/bias or prejudice based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation or any other similar factor.”

Quebec provincial police, meanwhile, don’t have a formal definition at all.

Of the 19 police services that provided their definitions to CBC News, eight of them mention gender identity. Only a handful mention discrimination based on someone’s “real or perceived” race or religion.

Both of those are important, says Irfan Chaudhry, a hate crimes researcher at MacEwan University in Edmonton.

The absence of gender expression, he said, means the definitions police services are using haven’t caught up to Canada’s Human Rights Act.

As for “real or perceived” race or religion, there may be cases where a culprit targets someone based on a misconception, Chaundhry said. A Sikh, for example, might be targeted by someone who mistakes the person as Muslim.

Different instructions

Without a standard definition, police services even give different instructions to their frontline officers about how to identify and investigate hate crimes, Camp said.

If this is a priority for Canada, he said, then it should be reflected with a uniform Criminal Code definition officers would use when laying a charge.

“The Criminal Code is a reflection of our ethics, morals and values in society, and Canada continues to purport to be a society that is pluralistic and inclusive, and safe,” he said. “So why is there not a hate crime section in the Criminal Code to reflect that?”

CBC News reached out to the major political parties to see who would be committed to establishing a uniform hate crime definition after the Oct. 21 federal election.

The Liberal Party said it would “improve the quality and amount of data collection Statistics Canada does regarding hate crimes in Canada.”

A Liberal government would also “create effective and evidence-based policies to counteract these crimes,” the party said in an emailed statement.

The Conservatives said in an email that the party believes “in making criminal justice policy based on evidence.”

“If the information being made available is not accurate,” the party said, then “a Conservative government will certainly look into addressing the issue.”

Looking for an accurate picture

The NDP says there are still some major Canadian cities without hate crime units and that if the party is elected on Oct. 21, it would provide money and resources to make sure every city has one.

“We will also work with provinces, experts and law enforcement to determine a clear and consistent definition of hate crimes so the data we collect and use is more accurate,” a party spokesperson said in an email.

The People’s Party of Canada says it would “look into if there is a need to make data collection uniform and better allocate resources.”

The Green Party said it would “ensure all police forces understand Canada’s hate laws.”

Camp said governments and police agencies owe it to the public to have an accurate picture of the location and prevalence of hate crimes.

“Without that,” he said, “we’re not doing our job as public servants.”

Source: How much hate crime does Canada have? Without a standard definition, no one knows for sure

Police reported hate crimes definition (StatsCan): Police-reported hate crime in Canada, 2017 – Statistics Canada › pub › article › 00008-eng

Alberta Human Rights Commission seeks to appeal Muslim school prayer spat at Supreme Court

Another case to watch:

The Alberta Human Rights Commission is hoping the Supreme Court will hear its appeal in the case of two Calgary Muslim students who were not allowed to pray at a non-denominational private school.

Sarmad Amir and Naman Siddiqui, who were in Grade 9 and 10 at Webber Academy in 2011, told the human rights commission that praying is mandatory in their Sunni religion. They said the school told them their praying, which requires bowing and kneeling, was too obvious and went against the academy’s non-denominational nature.

The human rights tribunal ruled the school’s policy was too rigid and it could have accommodated the students without violating its secular status.

That decision was upheld by the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench. The school then took the matter to the Alberta Court of Appeal.

It overturned the commission’s original decision ordering the school to pay a $26,000 fine for discriminatory behaviour and said another hearing was required because Webber Academy raised new issues under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Webber Academy president Neil Webber said Monday the human rights commission is seeking leave to appeal the decision.

“We should know I think by Christmas whether or not they have been successful. It took them quite a while to make the decision,” said Webber.

“We doubt that they will be successful. My information from our lawyer and also from a former member of the Supreme Court is that roughly 90 per cent of applications for leave … are turned down.”

No one at the Alberta Human Rights Commission immediately responded to a request for comment.

Webber said he hopes to preserve the secular nature of the school, which has about 1,000 students. He said the school has always made it clear to incoming students and their parents there is no space in the school for praying. It has received only two requests for prayer space in its 22 years of operations and both were denied.

He said even if the Supreme Court refuses to hear an appeal, the matter is far from over.

“Then the human rights commission has a choice — they can have another hearing or they could just drop the whole thing. I don’t know what the probability of dropping the whole thing could be.”

Source: Alberta Human Rights Commission seeks to appeal Muslim school prayer spat at Supreme Court