What makes a hate crime?

On March 17, the minister responsible for multiculturalism, Teresa Wat, announced that the B.C. government has launched an anti–hate-crime campaign called Know Hate. The campaign, which is run in partnership with the B.C. Hate Crimes Team and Abbotsford Community Services (ACS), primarily targets online hate crimes.

“The main goal is really to create a space for people to really define what the difference between what a hate crime is, versus discrimination, and really know what they can do about it,” said Brad Young, a community developer involved with the campaign at ACS. “We were talking about it quite a bit as the project was developing, and we found out that there’s a lot of mystery, I guess, around the Internet especially. So that’s why there’s a section [on the website] especially on Internet hate crimes. We really wanted people to know that you can do something about stuff on the Internet and to really be able to define that.”

In November 2013, ACS was awarded $150 000 to develop the Know Hate campaign. According to its website, ACS is a community-based agency with goals such as providing direct social community services and heightening awareness of social concerns within the community.

Manpreet Grewal, director of multi-cultural and immigration services at ACS, said that, as well as designing a website and paying staff, the money has mostly gone to developing the campaign and paying to make and put up the posters. “It’s a provincial campaign, so there’s a bus campaign on the island, a bus campaign in the interior and north, and then a skytrain campaign in the metro area,” she said.

Statistics Canada reports that the most common motivation for hate crimes is race or ethnicity, although sexual orientation is a more common motivation in violent hate crimes.  With the level of cultural diversity present in B.C. alone (approximately 40 000 immigrants enter B.C. every year), the Know Hate campaign is pushing to prevent further incidents of discrimination and hate crimes.

“I think it’s always important for people to unite when hate crimes happen,” said Grewal. “If the knowledge and education is always there, then people can detect them quite early and try and come together as a community.”

The Know hate website encourages anyone who is the victim of a hate crime to report it. The campaign includes an explanation of what to expect when reporting a hate crime, as well as examples of cases in which crimes have been reported and the wrongdoer has been sentenced. For Internet hate crimes specifically, the website draws a distinction between offensive material and criminal offences. When discrimination turns criminal, it becomes a hate crime.

According to Young, hate crimes happen everywhere and are under-reported. He says he is glad to see that B.C. is taking the initiative to do a campaign about it now and that it’s important to educate people on hate crimes, all over Canada.

“When I’m talking to the B.C. Hate Crimes teams, they’re talking about how bullying can sometimes be considered a hate crime, when it’s based on your race or your gender—all those identifiable groups—and I think there’s a lot of information out there about bullying right now, but there’s not quite as much about hate crime,” said Young.

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