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Shofar FTP Archive File: orgs/canadian/canada/justice/hate-motivated-violence/hmv-002-02

Archive/File: orgs/canadian/canada/justice/hate-motivated-violence/hmv-002-02
Last-Modified: 1997/01/19
Source: Department of Justice Canada

2.2.2 Analysis of Persons Who Commit Hate-motivated Violence

What do we know about those who commit hate-motivated
crimes? Daniel Goleman, in an 1990 article for The New York
Times, summarizes the findings of American scientists
studying hate crimes, focussing on who commits such crimes,
what motivates them, and exactly why people who would not
commit violent crimes on their own act so freely in groups.
These findings are:

(a) They are far more lethal than other kinds of attacks,
resulting in the hospitalization of their victims four times
more often than is true for other assaults;

(b) They are crimes of youth: most of those who perpetrate
them are in their teens or 20's. But they are not crimes of
youthful rebellion: those who carry them out are venting
feelings shared by their families, friends and community;

(c) The large majority are committed by people in groups of
four or more. And the more people in the group, the more
vicious the crime; and

(d) They reflect the primal emotions aroused by love of
one's own group. These deep feelings of group identity are
particularly vivid in times of economic and political
uncertainty and among people who suffered emotional neglect
as children.<51>

Given these data, some legal commentators have questioned
the utility of creating specific crimes of hate-motivated
violence. It has been argued that the bias attack is seen by
the perpetrator as a positive act that reinforces the
attacker's love for the group to which he or she belongs.
Because of the "mindless" nature of the hate crime, hate
crimes legislation has little, if any, general deterrent
value and any special deterrent value depends upon the
offender's disassociation from racist elements of his group
following release, an unlikely rehabilitation.<52>

It is also argued that hate crime laws might actually
increase bigotry. As regards the offender, punishing a
person for hate-motivated behaviour is unlikely to cure a
person of his or her hate; if the offender goes to jail, the
hatred will likely be reinforced, and the offender will
probably feel very resentful towards the very group to which
the victim belongs. As regards the larger population, one
argument is that these laws may stir resentment of
minorities among the larger population. For example, persons
may believe that the minorities are being treated in a more
favourable manner, leading to resentment like that of
children who dislike a "teacher's pet". Another argument is
that hate crimes legislation may act to disempower
minorities, because it implies that minorities are incapable
of holding their own without special protection. This may
lead some members of the majority population to believe that
there is something really wrong with the minorities. And,
there is the danger that the hate crime laws may be used
against minority members.<53>

Ancillary problems are also pointed out. For example, there
is the difficulty of drafting legislation in this context.
As American legal commentator Susan Gellman argues, the
drafting of an ethnic intimidation statute requires a series
of "near Solomonic decisions", such as what types of bias to
address: race, religion and ancestry only, or sex or sexual
orientation as well? What types of behaviour should be
included: symbolic acts such as cross-burning, or existing
crimes committed with a bias motive? Should intraethic as
well as interethnic situations be covered? Should standards
be subjective or objective? At what point does behaviour
become criminal instead of merely being offensive? For
example, is "slut" a sexist or a personal slur?<54>

Another American legal commentator argues that a further
problem with these crimes lies in proving that the accused
was motivated by racism. In the absence of an explicit
admission of racial motivation, inferences about motive
would have to be drawn from circumstantial evidence,
inferences that may be highly inaccurate given the

inherent ambiguity of motive.<55> Prosecutors may have a
difficult time proving racist motive because multiple
motives may impel an individual to action, and the
prosecutor may have difficulty proving the racial motivation
in the face of the existence of other motivations.<56> As a
result, it is contended that the requirement of proving
motive has seriously undercut the efficacy of existing hate
crimes. Prosecutors, rather than risk an acquittal on a
charge under a hate crimes statute, often charge a person
who has committed a crime evidencing racial motivation under
traditional criminal law statutes. And, a jury's reliance on
its own subjective intuitions about the motivations behind
an individual's conduct may encourage arbitrary application
of the statutes against disfavoured groups for whom the
statutes were intended in the first place.<57>

2.3 Summary

This chapter has shown that, historically, Canada has not
been free of incidents of hate-motivated violence. Recent
Canadian data on the scope of such violence have been
limited in scope. For example, the League for Human Rights
of B'nai Brith Canada audits anti-Semitic incidents that are
reported to it. Jeffrey Ross's quantitative analysis of
right-wing violence in Canada did not include an examination
of incidents of hate-motivated vandalism such as cemetery
desecration. Indeed, different conclusions have been
expressed as to just how serious a problem such violence is,
in the Canadian context. Nonetheless, Canadian data relating
to hate-motivated conduct are not collected and reported
systematically by police forces on a national scale. In
contrast to Canada, other jurisdictions, such as the United
States, England and France, have put in place reporting
mechanisms that provide a more comprehensive national
picture of the scale of hate-motivated behaviour; or, like
Australia, have created a national inquiry to examine the
scope of such violence throughout the country.

As regards what such data reveal about those who commit hate
crimes, certain American studies indicate that these crimes
are more vicious than other kinds of attacks, that they are
committed by youths, often in groups, and that they are
committed by those who have strong feelings of group
identity. This has led some American commentators to
question the effectiveness of hate crimes legislation as a
deterrent to hate-motivated conduct or as a means of
decreasing the level of bigotry within society.

Nonetheless, in the Canadian context, the present law
clearly views hatemotivated violence as serious criminal
conduct deserving of greater punishment than that accorded
the usual commission of a crime. This will be explored in
more detail in the next chapter.

[Footnotes: see hmv-002-03]

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