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Shofar FTP Archive File: orgs/canadian/canada/justice/hate-motivated-violence/hmv-002-00

Archive/File: orgs/canadian/canada/justice/hate-motivated-violence/hmv-002-00
Last-Modified: 1997/01/19
Source: Department of Justice Canada


2.1 Methodology

In researching the issue of hate-motivated criminal conduct,
this study examined existing criminal law practice in Canada
and certain foreign jurisdictions, relevant case law, legal
periodicals relating to the topic, government publications
(e.g., in England, documents published by the Home Office),
proposals for reform in this area by national reform-minded
agencies (e.g., the Law Reform Commission of Australia),
publications by interested private organizations (e.g., the
League for Human Rights of B'nai Brith Canada and the
American Anti-Defamation League), and recent, selective
newspaper articles about specific incidents of hate-
motivated criminal conduct.

This examination was not confined to Canada for two reasons.
First, the problem of hate-motivated criminal conduct is not
confined to Canada. As recent events in other parts of the
world have shown_from attacks on immigrants in Germany to
ethnic cleansing in Bosnia_this is a problem that plagues
the world. Confining the study only to Canada in light of
these recent international events would lend an air of
unreality to discussion of the problem. Secondly, the
purpose of this paper is to consider carefully to what
extent Canada's criminal law needs to be reformed to address
the problem. In considering reform, it is necessary to
examine how other jurisdictions have acted, or are
considering acting, to combat the problem; they may serve as
useful guides for reform of Canadian criminal law in this

An important question, however, is: What jurisdictions
should be selected in examining possible avenues for reform?
Those chosen were the United States, England, Australia, New
Zealand, France, Germany and Sweden. The United States was
chosen, not simply because of its geographic proximity to
Canada, but because it is often a fertile source of reform
in criminal law. The United States has most aggressively
pursued a policy of combatting hate-motivated violence
through the use of specific hate crimes legislation.
England, Australia and New Zealand are Commonwealth
countries with legal traditions similar to that of Canada,
and whose legal responses to criminal law issues are often
studied to assist in developing proposals for reform of
Canadian criminal law. Germany, France and Sweden were
selected as being reasonably representative of the approach
of Western Europe in combatting hate-motivated violence.

2.2 Literature Review

Although little legal literature exists on the issue of hate-
motivated crime in Canada, much has been written on this
subject in recent years in other jurisdictions, such as the
United States, England, and Australia. In the context of
creating specific criminal legislation to combat bias-
motivated violence, the most exhaustive and even the most
critical literature is found in the United States.

This chapter focusses on certain aspects of the material
studied: what is known about the incidence of hate-motivated
conduct both in Canada and in some of the other
jurisdictions studied, what is known about those who engage
in this conduct, and what problems arise for those who
favour increased use of the criminal law in this area, given
this information. Other chapters will explore in greater
detail other issues raised in examining this problem.

2.2.1 Data on Hate-motivated Violence A Brief History of Hate-motivated Violence in Canada

Canada has a long history of hate-motivated violence towards
racial or ethnic minorities. For example, in 1907 in
Vancouver, a mob of whites attacked the Chinese and Japanese
communities, causing at least extensive damage to stores
and, it was claimed by one report, "several fatalities".<16>
During World War II, members of the Japanese Canadian
community were interned and their property confiscated.<17>
In the 1970s, a series of subway attacks against members of
the South Asian community in

Toronto helped to result in creation of a task force to study
that problem.<18> In a 1980 study on interracial conflict in
Canada,<19> Dhiru Patel pointed out that:

     Historically, ... established leaders in Canadian
     society (both individual and institutional) have made
     key contributions to interracial violence, for example,
     to the anti-Chinese riot of 1887 and the anti-
     Chinese/Japanese riot of 1907 in Vancouver. In both
     cases, the local newspapers, respectable individuals
     (businessmen, clergymen, politicians) and organizations
     played a very prominent role in at least preparing the
     groundwork and instigating the violence, which claimed
     "scores" of Chinese lives. The timing of the riots
     seems to have been related to white workers' alleged
     fears of economic competition, especially at a time of
     recession ....<20>

Patel agreed with studies which suggested that:

     [R]acial violence in Canada cannot be explained
     sufficiently in terms of the "deviant-individual" or
     the impersonal "social-forces" perspectives alone. The
     earlier violence initiated by the dominant community
     against the Japanese and Chinese and the more recent
     violence against nonwhites in Montreal, Toronto, and
     Vancouver are two cases in point: prominent,
     respectable individuals and social institutions and
     organizations played an important, if not a critical,
     role in the former case, and the strength and pervasive
     nature of at least latent racism is indicated in the
     latter.<21> Recent Canadian Data

One of the major difficulties in determining the extent of
hate-motivated violence in Canada is that information on
such incidents is not systematically collected and reported
on a national scale. Thus, available data about such
violence provide, arguably, a limited view of the scope of
the problem. As noted earlier, the 1992 Audit of Anti-
Semitic Incidents stated that 196 anti-Semitic incidents
across Canada were reported to the League for Human Rights
of B'nai Brith Canada that year. Although there was a 22
percent decrease over the preceding year, this decrease was
expected, given the rash of anti-Semitic incidents that
occurred during the Gulf War. These figures still
constituted an 11 percent increase over 1989.22 Of the
incidents reported in 1992, 56 involved acts of vandalism
and 150 involved acts of harassment.<23> Of the acts of
harassment (defined as any incident of abuse or threat
directed against an individual, group or institution,
including incidents of hate propaganda), three involved acts
of violence and eight involved threats of violence, the
remainder being incidents of slurs and hate propaganda.<24>
The 1992 Audit also reported that a significantly large
number of all types of incidents were directed at
individuals, and that there was a disturbing rise in
incidents directed at non-Jewish institutions, the latter
indicating the increased efforts of hate groups to target
high schools and universities and the average person on the

In the context of compiling incidents of hate-motivated
conduct, it is useful to examine a 1991 research report
prepared for the Economic Council of Canada, Economic and
Social Impacts of Immigration.<26> The report analyzed the
data of anti-Semitic incidents compiled by the B'nai Brith
League for Human Rights from 1982 to 1989, a total of 615
incidents. The results of this analysis showed a strong
positive correlation between the raw frequency of anti-
Semitic incidents and the proportion of Jewish residents in
the region. While the uncorrected number of antiSemitic
incidents showed no significant change over time, there was
evidence of an increase over time in the number of incidents
reported, once the effects of other variables (e.g.,
proportion of Jewish residents, unemployment rates) were
taken into account.<27>

In addition, the B'nai Brith League for Human Rights, in its
report, Skinheads in Canada and Their Link to the Far
Right,<28> outlined several incidents of neo-Nazi skinheads
engaging in anti-Semitic activity (including assaults,
threats, and desecration of synagogues) and concluded:

     The Skinhead movement has become a serious threat to
     the Jewish community and the multicultural fabric of
     Canadian society. Their activities have become more
     organized, open, violent and pervasive. Communities
     from coast-to-coast are threatened.<29>

Of course, evidence of anti-Semitic activity is but one
aspect of hate-motivated activity in Canada. What about
incidents of hate-motivated violence directed against
members of visible minorities because of their race or
colour of their skin?

To begin with, there are indications of systemic
discrimination against members of visible minorities. In his
recent report to the Ontario government following the riots
in Toronto in the spring of 1992, Stephen Lewis asserted
that, while every visible minority experienced the wounds of
systemic discrimination throughout Southern Ontario, the
root kind of racism to be dealt with was anti-black

In the context of criminal justice reform, a consensus
appears to have developed that the treatment of aboriginal
persons by the present criminal justice system has promoted
inequitable, not equitable, treatment.<31>

But, assuming that systemic discrimination against visible
minorities is a major problem in Canada, to what extent has
that translated into bias-motivated violence against those
minorities? Recently, Jeffrey Ross systematically studied
the extent of right-wing violence in Canada, by studying
newspaper clippings and similar sources for incidents of
such violence taking place between 1960 and 1990. The
incidents, totalling 159, covered only persons who had
instigated violence or who were in direct confrontational
activities, but did not include activities that only
promoted violence. Nor did these include threats,
harassment, or defacement of property such as cemetery
desecrations. The results included the following:

(a) Canada has consistently experienced a relatively annual
low level of right-wing violence with two exceptions. During
1980-81, there were 23 incidents (accounting for almost 15
percent) and again in 1989 there were 27 events,
(contributing to 17 percent) of the total number of events
(159) in the 1960-90 period. Otherwise the number of attacks
hovered around 5.3 incidents per year;

(b) As regards the type of event for radical right-wing
violence, more than half of the attacks (89) were directed
specifically at people. These were mainly assaults, many of
which occurred during protest situations, with the balance
divided between bombings and other types of actions;

(c) In descending order of frequency, the provinces of
Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia have experienced the
overwhelming majority of right-wing incidents (96.9
percent). These events have occurred in provinces where the
majority of Canadians, particularly large emigre, minority,
and immigrant populations, live;

(d) Most acts of right-wing violence were acts committed by
individuals unaffiliated or not claiming membership with a
particular group, or by groups not wishing to be publicly
identified by their actions. The bulk of actions for which a
culprit could be found have been executed in recent years by
skinheads (26) while the remainder are equally divided
between neo-fascist groups, such as the Western Guard, and
anti-communist nationalists;

(e) The majority of attacks (58 events) are of a racist
nature. In descending order of importance the attacks of an
anti-communist/nationalist nature (56) and antiSemitic ones
(17) hold second and distant third place positions

(f) In the three decades covered by this data set only six
people were killed as a result of radical right-wing
violence, i.e., only four percent of acts of this kind of
violence ended in deaths to the participants (these included
a Sikh restaurant worker killed on his way home from work in
Vancouver, and a homosexual activist killed by skinheads in
Montreal). One hundred and twelve people were injured as a
result of radical right-wing violence in Canada. In order of
frequency, the type of people injured were domestic
noncombatants (73), police (18), foreign noncombatants (13),
and radical right members (8). The majority of people
attacked were of Canadian and not foreign citizenship;

(g) As regards the categories of victims, the majority of
them (57.5 percent) are protesters, members of an audience
or passersby. In other words, few specific people have been
targeted. Those hurt have been random. The majority hurt are
Canadian citizens.<32>

Ross therefore concludes that the amount of right-wing
violence in Canada pales in comparison with that occurring
in the United States, suggesting that policymakers, the
media, and academics are overreacting to radical right-wing

Given that incidents of right-wing or hate-motivated
violence, according to Ross, do not appear to be numerous,
one could argue that there is no substantial problem that
requires a legislative response to such violence. In short,
the problem of hate-motivated violence in Canada is not a
major one, unlike in the United States, where the legacy of
historically rooted institutional racism against blacks
(such as slavery and later the separate-but-equal doctrine)
has arguably produced a systemic racism, which the United
States is striving to combat. Because there is no equivalent
problem of hate-motivated violence like that in the United
States, there is no need to follow the approach of several
American states by creating specific criminal laws to deal
with such violence.

However, the mere fact that reported incidents of hate-
motivated violence are not numerous does not necessarily
mean that the problem is not serious. First, such violence
does occur, and in a multicultural nation like Canada, that
in itself should cause concern. Secondly, in the absence of
mechanisms to obtain nationwide data about hate-motivated
crimes, it is difficult to measure accurately the full scope
of the problem. In short, present methods of data collection
on hate-motivated violence in Canada make it difficult to
determine the extent of such violence. It may well be asked:
If a national inquiry were created to look specifically at
the issue of hatemotivated violence in Canada, would it find
the same degree of violence that was found in Australia by
the national inquiry into racist violence by that country's
Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission?34 In fact,
even where such mechanisms exist, a criticism made about the
collection of data concerning racial harassment or racial
violence is that persons who are the victims of such
violence but who are wary of the police may not report these

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