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Shofar FTP Archive File: orgs/canadian/canada/justice/disproportionate-harm/dh-004-04

Archive/File: orgs/canadian/canada/justice/disproportionate-harm/dh-000-04
Last-Modified: 1997/01/12
Source: Department of Justice Canada

4.9 Non-criminal Justice Agencies

Although this report has been directed largely to the
criminal justice response to hate crimes, it is important to
note that responding to this problem is not only the
responsibility of the police and the courts. Long-term, non-
reactive strategies are likely to prove more effective in
reducing the incidence of hate-motivated crime. These
strategies are likely to be based in large part on education
initiatives, particularly those involving schools. As noted
earlier in the report, the typical hate crime offender is a
young person, usually under the age of 25. Criminal justice
interventions involving the arrest, prosecution and
punishment of culpable individuals are important, but are
reactive in nature; they are invoked once the crime has been
committed (see Cook, 1991). Greater efforts need to be made
to educate young persons about the harm inflicted by hate
crimes, and the fact that more than other crime, hate crimes
traduce the spirit of a multicultural, multiracial society.

The research literature on vandalism is instructive in this
respect. Many of the hate crimes reported to the police
involve some form of vandalism, particularly antisemitic
vandalism directed at synagogues. Surveys of young persons
show that they fail to appreciate the severity of crimes of
vandalism, and this may well be responsible for the high
rates of participation. For example, research in Ontario
involving schoolchildren found that respondents believed
vandalism to be a low severity crime, which was least likely
to result in conviction (Ontario Task Force on Vandalism,
1981). Not surprisingly, perhaps, perceptions of offence
severity were inversely related to the likelihood that the
respondent has participated in an act of vandalism (Ontario
Task Force on Vandalism, 1981: 248). This finding has also
been found elsewhere. As Zimmerman and Broder (1981: 51)

There is a significant negative relationship between the
seriousness and extent of activity; the more serious an act,
the less likely it is engaged in, and the fewer the children
who engage in it. In short, educating the public in general,
and the young in particular, about the seriousness of this
form of criminal activity is likely to prove an effective
long-term strategy to combat the incidence of hate crimes.

4.10 Research Priorities Relating to Hate Crimes

In addition to formalising the collection of uniform
statistics by the police,  there are several other steps
that should be taken to improve our knowledge of the  nature
and incidence of this form of criminality.

4.10.1 Survey of Community Attitudes

Although hate crime units now exist in most major urban
police forces, little is known about their relationship with
the communities most affected by hate crimes. For example,
we do not know how much confidence members of the Gay and
Lesbian community have in the police response to reports of
hate crime. Only when we have a scientific survey of the
communities most affected will we be able to know how
effective the police response has been in terms of reaching
out to victims of hate crime. Research on hate-motivated
crime in other countries (e.g., Maung and Mirrlees-Black,
1994) has shown that fear, dislike, or lack of confidence in
the police was the reason why visible minorities did not
report crimes to the criminal justice system. We need to
know whether this is also the case with regard to ethnic
minorities as well as other communities that are the target
of hate crimes.

4.10.2 Victimization Surveys

As noted in the introduction to this report, crime
statistics collected by the criminal justice system capture
only part of the true incidence of crime. This has
implications for any attempt to track the incidence of hate
crimes. For example, it suggests that hate crimes should
also be addressed in a victimization survey. The principal
victimization survey in Canada is the personal risk survey
contained in the General Social Survey (GSS). The survey was
conducted in 1988 and replicated in 1993. The data from the
survey have added considerably to our knowledge of crime
patterns in Canada (see, for example, Gartner and Doob,
1994). It would be relatively straightforward to add some
additional questions to the GSS that would explore victims'
perceptions of crime incidents in which hate motivation
played a role (or was perceived by the victim to have played
a role). Without such additional information, our knowledge
of the incidence of hate crime would be restricted to
official crime statistics.

On the basis of current data, we do not know a great deal
about the relative victimization rates of different
minorities. Is the incidence of hate crime directed at the
Jewish community greater than that directed at Black
communities in Canada? Both groups have in the past been the
object of discrimination and overt racism. However the data
on acts of anti-semitism have been subject to better
documentation over the years. Although the Audit of Anti-
Semitic Incidents conducted annually by the League for Human
Rights of B'nai Brith Canada probably captures only a
minority of incidents of anti-semitism in this country, the
documentation provides a useful index of one important form
of hate crime activity. We need to have a similar research
initiative for other minority groups. This information could
be obtained by means of a  victimization survey.

4.10.3 Criminal Justice Processing of Hate-motivated Crimes

The successful prosecution of hate-motivated crimes creates
special challenges for the police and the crown. No
systematic research has examined the way in which the police
investigate such crimes. Even cursory examination of the
information sent  to the Department of Justice Canada
suggests variability in the approach to investigation of
hate crimes. This initiative would involve qualitative
research. The findings described in this report are all
quantitative in nature. However, there is a limit to what we
can learn about hate crime incidents, and the way that the
criminal justice system responds to them, by means of
quantitative research. Accordingly, an in-depth analysis of
a limited number of case files would greatly aid our
understanding  of the problem. This research would
supplement quantitative findings that inform us  about gross
trends across jurisdictions and over time. One important
topic that needs  to be addressed from this perspective is
the extent to which hate crimes in Canada are  the product
of organized groups (as is the case in most European
jurisdictions -- see  Loow, 1995) rather than individual
offenders without any such affiliation.

4.10.4 Case Law Analysis of Sentencing Decisions in Hate
Crime Sentences

 As noted earlier, the Sentencing Reform Bill (C-41)
specifies hate motivation  as an aggravating factor. This is
consistent with recommendations made by various  groups and
individuals (see Etherington, 1994: 81). As well, it has
been observed that  this statute merely codifies what the
courts have been doing for some time: increasing  the
quantum of punishment in those cases in which hatred of an
identifiable group was  a precipitating factor. However,
this assertion has never been fully documented, and  the few
existing sentencing texts (Canadian Sentencing Commission,
1987; Ruby,  1994) are silent on the issue. It is important
to know whether the courts have in fact recognized hate
motivation in this way, and also to what extent. To what
extent  should this factor aggravate? The power of different
aggravating factors varies widely. Some indication of the
range of aggravation would be of utility to judges and would
result in greater uniformity in terms of application of the
statutory penalty  enhancement.

4.10.5 Offender Profile Analysis

Research in other jurisdictions as well as the limited
information currently available in Canada suggests that hate
crime offenders are a relatively homogenous group. They are
younger than the general offender population, and although
the general offender population is comprised largely of
males, hate crime offenders are exclusively masculine. They
also tend to have links with gangs. To the extent that this
is true for hate crimes across Canada, there are important
policy implications to be drawn in terms of the criminal
justice response.

4.10.6 Public Opinion Survey of Attitudes Towards Hate-
motivated Crimes

It would be worth knowing more about public perception in
this area. For example, what do the public know about the
extent of the problem in Canada? Do they support the use of
hate motivation as an aggravating factor at the time of
sentencing? Are people in some demographic categories less
likely to report crimes motivated by hate? These are some of
the questions that would be answered by systematic public
opinion research.

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