Silence only abets criminals

Richard Mahoney—My View
Silence only abets criminals

Despite all the efforts to encourage acceptance, tolerance and understanding, the incidence of hate crimes drives home the fact that many bigots cannot be changed.

Human rights laws, diversity, equity and inclusion policies, anti-racism departments and good intentions cannot force all haters to “see the light.”  We are supposed to be “politically correct” and be careful not to offend anyone. We must decry all forms of marginalization. Obviously, sermons will not wipe out discrimination.

The most recent hate crime numbers are disturbing. There are more reported hate crimes in Canada, and in Cornwall. And a high percentage of offences in Cornwall are committed by young people in schools.

People of a certain age may associate the stereotypical bigot with the Archie Bunker character from the old All In The Family TV show, a sitcom that ran in the 1970s. The grumpy middle-aged white guy unleashed slurs against minorities and railed against hippies, while he ordered his poor wife, Edith, to “stifle” herself.

Yet, in many respects, “Archie” lives on.

The number of hate crimes reported by police in Canada rose from 3,355 incidents in 2021 to 3,576 in 2022, a seven per cent increase, according to Statistics Canada. This followed two sharp annual increases, resulting in a cumulative rise of 83 per cent from 2019 to 2022. Higher numbers of hate crimes targeting a race or an ethnicity and a sexual orientation accounted for most of the increase in 2022. In 2022, hate crimes targeting a religion were down 15 per cent from 2021 yet remained above the annual numbers recorded from 2018 to 2020.

Nationwide, 61 per cent of all hate crime incidents were directed against racial minorities, 23 per cent against religious minorities, 11 per cent against gays or lesbians and 5 per cent against ethnic minorities.

Following a peak of 886 incidents in 2021, hate crimes targeting a religion were down 15% in 2022 to 750 incidents. This decline was largely the result of fewer police-reported hate crimes targeting Catholics and Muslims. Hate crimes targeting the Jewish population were up slightly in 2022, rising two per cent. Hate crimes targeting the Jewish population accounted for 67 per cent of hate crimes targeting a religion in 2022, while those targeting the Muslim population represented 14 per cent.

Like other types of crime, counts of police-reported hate crime can be impacted by major social events, policing initiatives or awareness campaigns. The Stats Canada information reflects data reported for 2022. It does not include information from 2023, and therefore does not reflect hate crimes that were committed after the October 7 attack by Hamas against Israel, which set off the ongoing war in Gaza. Information for 2023 will be released in summer 2024. Expect to see some even more frightening stats.

While everyone is a potential target, the haters tend to be boys and young men, accounting for 86 per cent of accused from 2018 to 2022. Of all hate crimes reported in 2022, less than one third was resolved.

In launching its “Stop the Hate” campaign, the Cornwall Police Service, which has set up an online hate crime reporting portal, related that the number of hate crimes in Cornwall is on the rise, and in the first quarter of this year, 56 per cent of all reported crimes were based in schools and involved youth. No, the kids are not all right.

And these figures only scratch the surface. A large proportion of incidents is never reported to police. Victims remain silent because they fear additional victimization, assume the justice system will not take their reports seriously enough or worry about being stigmatized.

Dealing with hate is never comfortable, whether it is directly challenging a racist or making a call to a police station.

But silence is not golden; it only abets the criminals.

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