The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Combatting Hatred in Canada

Paul Winn


Hatred is defined in the New Edition: The Concise Oxford Dictionary as: "active dislike; enmity; rejection and ill will." The ultimate result of active hatred can be death. Hatred is something that has been with Canada since its early beginnings. For example during the days of slavery in Canada Blacks were hung, tortured and left to live in destitution. In more recent times there were the anti-Chinese riots of 1887, and the anti-Chinese/Japanese riot in Vancouver in 1907. The greater the mix of different groups, the greater the opportunity for hatred to spring up. Hate bias raises its ugly head when the dominant culture thinks it's under attack or threatened in some way.

It seems as though we as human beings require a scapegoat. It's as if we need someone or some group to look down on, to blame for the ills in our society and our own inadequacies. The less a group or an individual looks like "us" or behaves like "us" or does not share our beliefs, the more likely it is for them to be targets of hatred.

The Black or Afro-Canadian experience has been shaped by the legacy of slavery in the Americas. Through the relegation of a group of people, identifiable by the colour of their skin to a sub-human level, it becomes easier to marginalize, mistrust, and blame them for any number of ills faced by a society. This process of dehumanization makes it easier to treat them in an inhuman fashion. Even today as we approach the millenium, Blacks, and in particular the Black male is seen as some sort of urban bogey-man, something to be feared and at the same time hated.

In 1992 Stephen Lewis was asked by the Ontario government to prepare a report following a series of what were described as "race riot' in Toronto. Mr. Lewis found that while visible minorities in general faced systemic racism in Southern Ontario, he found that the greatest of these was anti-Black racism. ((S. Lewis, Report to the Ontario Government on Race Relations (Toronto: 1992), pp. 2-3.)

However, in the early days it appeared as though Canada was not interested in seeing acts of racism in the category of hate. Canada appeared only interested in seeing hatred as material or acts that were perceived as deviant to the majority of society. Concern focused on such issues as erotic sex, homosexuality, bestiality, Satanism and lesbianism to name a few. Only those things that seemed to undermine the moral standards of the day were given any attention. and at one time racism was an acceptable practice therefore not openly shunned upon.

More recently acts of racism has been added to the list of things that are considered hatred. Racism is a severe form of hate and can be found at all levels of our society. In his study of 1980, 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 in 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 groundwork and instigating the violence, which claimed "scores" of Chinese lives. (D. Patel, Dealing with Interracial Conflict., Policy Alternatives (Montreal: Institute for Research on Public Policy, 1980)

It is difficult to record and determine the extent of hate-motivated activities because they are not systematically collected and reported on. Organizations such as the League for Human Rights of B'nai Brith Canada actively seek out this information and in 1992 recorded 196 anti-Semitic incidents across Canada. Of this total 56 involved acts of vandalism and 150 were acts of harassment. (League for Human Rights of B'nai Brith Canada, 1992 Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, Downsview, Ont.: B'nai Brith Canada, 1993, p.5.)

In a study by Jeffery Ross coveting a period from 1960 to 1990 he erroneously concludes that because the volume of incidents is small in comparison to United States statistics there is no need for Canada to consider legislative intervention to violence based on race.

The number of incidents covered by Ross was 159 and only included persons who had instigated violence or who were in direct confrontational activities, but did not include activities that only promoted violence. His study did not include threats, harassment, or defacement of property such as cemetery desecrations. The results included the following:

Canada has consistently experienced a relatively annual low level of right-wing violence with two exceptions. During 1980-8 1, there were 23 incidents (accounting for almost 15 percent) and again in 1989 there were 27 events, (contributing 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.

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 type of actions.

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.

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.

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 anti-Semitic ones (17) hold second and distant third place positions respectively.

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.

As regards the categories of victims, the majority of them (57.7 percent) are protesters, members of an audience or passerby. In other words, few specific people have been targeted. Those hurt have been random. The majority hurt are Canadian Citizens. ((J. L Ross, "Research Note: Contemporary Radical right-wing Violence in Canada: A Quantitative Analysis" (Autumn, 1992) 5 Terrorism and Political Violence 72, No. 3, pp. 82-92)

It is important that in a multicultural, pluralistic nation such as Canada hate-motivated violence should not be seen as a marginal problem. It must be considered extremely serious and needs to be addressed in a clear public policy.

The difficult question becomes what to do about combating hate-motivated violence? Should we be looking to the criminal law to deal with hate-motivated violence? If that were the case how would we characterize the crime, what standard should be used, for example what would be the mens rea requirement?

It is evident that we would have to come up with a definition for hate-motivated violence. Any definition would have to include physical attack as well as verbal and non-verbal intimidation, harassment and incitement to racial hatred. Included in this would be intimidating phone calls and threatening insults and gestures.

Consultant Robin Oakley in his report to the Council of Europe on racial violence and harassment pointed out that apart from the image of racial violence involving acts of a serious criminal nature, such as murder or serious wounding of victims, there were minor events that also needed to be included. (R. Oakley, Racial Violence and Harassment in Europe, a consultant's report prepared for the Council of Europe, ref. MG-CR (91) 3 rev.2 ([Strasbourg]: Council of Europe, [1993], pp. 12-13.) Non-physical intimidation such as jostling, spitting, verbal and written abuse, that is unprovoked and repeated constitutes racial harassment that more forcefully contributes to the everyday racism that affects victims lives. Written graffiti on personal property without the consent of the individual would be a crime of criminal mischief The criminal law at the least needs to curtail hate motivated violence that places individuals in a position where they fear for their safety.

Finally, we need a strong education program to deal with hate-motivated violence and acts of intolerance. A program that is specifically tailored to meet the needs of the various segments of our society is required. The right tools for the job are needed --- tools that meet the needs of teachers, churches, communities, businesses, parents, and children must be developed. For too long we as a society have believed that one approach would solve the problem of attacks on minorities in our communities. We are dealing with an unreasonable component with an irrational agenda, and we must be creative and adventurous in finding solutions to eradicate the cancer of hate-motivated violence in our midst.


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