The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Disproportionate Harm
Hate Crime in Canada

(4 of 4) B'nai Brith Data

The best data available on the incidence of hate crimes of a particular category in Canada come from the League for Human Rights of B'nai Brith Canada. These statistics have been compiled for over a decade now, and are publicly available in the annual "Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents". Since the same definitions (and criteria for inclusion) have been used over this period, and the same mechanisms employed to record incidents, this data base provides a unique historical record of hate crimes in Canada over the past 13 years. The B'nai Brith database is therefore a vital resource for anyone wishing to know more about the incidence of hate crimes. These data are restricted to incidents of anti-semitism. However, anti-semitic hate crimes constitute one of the principal hate crime targets in Canada, and the principal hate crime target in other jurisdictions as well. The B'nai Brith data are presented separately in this report because they are qualitatively different from the statistics recorded by the police (although some of the incidents recorded by the B'nai Brith will presumably have also been reported to the police). Incidents included in the database are classified either as episodes of vandalism or harassment. The annual document describes the former as:

an act involving physical damage to property. It includes graffiti, swastikas, desecrations of cemeteries and synagogues, other property damage, arson and other criminal acts such as thefts and break-ins where an ant. semitic motive can be determined ( League for Human Rights, 1995: 3).

"Harassment" includes "anti-semitic hate propaganda distribution, hate mail and verbal slurs or acts of discrimination against individuals. Death threats and bomb threats against individuals " and property, as well as any kind of physical assault" (League for Human Rights, 1995: 3).

It is clear then, that the B'nai Brith data are more inclusive than hate crime statistics gathered by the police. Some of the incidents that are included in the B'nai Brith database would not be considered crimes, even though the social harm may be as great or greater than a crime, and the acts may be even more morally reprehensible. <Of course this limitation cuts both ways: not all the incidents in the B'nai Brith data-base are criminal in nature, but equally so, not all the crimes are going to be captured in official crime statistics, for reasons discussed earlier in this report.> The B'nai Brith data provide a broader insight into hate-motivated behaviour than can be obtained from police reports. For this reason, the B'nai Brith data will be referred to as hate activity incidents, rather than crimes, per se.

Before describing recent trends in anti-semitic incidents, it is worth making a few observations about the B'nai Brith statistics. First, these incidents are primarily the result of reports by victims themselves. This differs from police statistics, where a higher proportion are likely to arise from witnesses. Second, not all reports result in an entry in the annual Audit. The League for Human Rights conducts a thorough investigation of each incident in order to establish that anti-semitism was indeed the underlying motivation. Third, an attempt is made to ensure comparability from year to year, so that the database is unaffected by changing thresholds of proof. The criteria for inclusion have been constant since the Audit was established in 1982. In this sense, on a national level the B'nai Brith statistics are purer than criminal justice statistics which, as noted earlier, use variable definitions of what constitutes a hate crime. Finally, it is important to point out that, as with police statistics, the B'nai Brith data represent but a fraction of incidents of anti-semitism in this country. For a number of reasons, a great deal of anti- ;emitism passes unrecorded by either the police or B'nai Brith. When the 1994 Audit reports 290 incidents, it should not be taken that this represents anything other than a fraction of the true total of anti- semitic incidents across Canada.

Table 16 provides a breakdown of anti-semitic incidents recorded by the League for Human Rights since 1982. Several trends are apparent from this table. First, there has been a steady increase in the recorded number of anti- semitic incidents over the decade, rising from 63 in 1982 to almost 300 in 1994, the most recent year for which data are currently available. Second, harassment incidents have accounted for approximately two-thirds of all incidents over the entire period. Third, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of incidents recorded in recent years. Thus there were 196 incidents recorded in 1992. The total for 1994 was 290, which represents an almost 50 percent increase in two years. These data underline the fact that anti-semitism is clearly a social problem in Canada.

Table 17 makes it clear that incidents of anti-semitism reported to and recorded by the League for Human Rights are concentrated in three principal cities: Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa. Together these cities account for over 80 percent of the incidents of anti-semitism in Canada that are captured by this database. There are several possible explanations for this finding. These three cities have large Jewish communities. This increases the number of potential targets. As well, awareness of the League for Human Rights Audit may be greater in these cities, thereby increasing the likelihood that a victim will contact the B'nai Brith. Hate Crimes Directed at Gays and Lesbians

The second non-criminal justice source of data drawn upon in this report concerns hate-motivated crimes directed against gays and lesbians. The research literature in other jurisdictions makes it clear that gays and lesbians are a prime target for hate-motivated crimes, and have been for many years. In addition, gay and lesbian victims are probably less likely to report to the police than any other group. For this reason, a portrait of hate crime incide Its in Canada would be inadequate without some information about crimes directed against gays and lesbians. The data provided in this report are far from exhaustive; they derive from organizations in two major cities: Toronto and Montreal. They are provided to give an indication of the scope of the problem within the gay community.


The principal source of information about hate crimes in Toronto is the 519 Church St. Community Centre. One of the activities of this community centre was the creation, in 1990, of a "Gay and Lesbian Bashing Hotline". A confidential report is completed about all calls to this line. This information is then communicated to the police for further investigation. The line is available during the Centre's opening hours. In mid-November 1994, the Centre hired a full-time Trainer and Educator for the Victim Assistance Program. This individual currently processes all the reports made to the line. As well, she trains volunteers to handle incoming reports. The line is now known as the Lesbian and Gay Bashing Reporting and Information Line. Two caveats are worth making regarding these data. First, it is important to note that, as with police statistics, these data do not capture the all the incidents of anti-gay activity taking place in Toronto. The majority of incidents are, for a variety of reasons, reported neither to the hotline nor the police. Second, these data -- like the British Crime Survey data (but unlike the police statistics) -- consist of reports of incidents in which the victim reports the hate motivation. It is possible that some of these incidents involve crimes that were not motivated by hatred of gays or lesbians, but were seen that way by the victim. <Once again, the reverse may also be true. Individual victims may be selected by offenders on the basis of their race, ethnicity or sexual orientation without this being known to the victim.>

Over 90 percent of the calls to the Toronto hotline were made by gay men. However, this statistic should not be taken to suggest that lesbians are significantly less likely to be the target of harassment or assault on the grounds of their sexual orientation. Although no direct evidence is available in Canada, research in other countries suggests that the nine to one ratio represents a differential willingness to report incidents to either a hotline or the police and that, in fact, lesbians are almost as likely to be the target of hate-motivated crimes as gay men.

Table 18 presents a breakdown of incidents reported to the hotline over the period January 1, 1990 to April 1, 1995. As can be seen, there is a high incidence of physical assault: almost half (46 percent) of the incidents involved some form of physical assault. Almost a third of incidents involved some form of verbal harassment, while 15 percent of reports involved a threat of some form. Less than 10 percent were hate-motivated cases of vandalism or theft. A further 12 reports were made concerning reports of assaults against gays by police officers (these are not included in Table 18). Some indication of the gravity of the incidents reported to the hotline can be found in Table 19, which provides a breakdown of the 50 percent of respondents who reported some form of injury. All respondents reported bruising of some kind, with almost one in five reporting a fracture (percentages exceed 100 percent due to multiple responses). Of the 22 cases of head injuries, one-third resulted in concussion. These data suggest that crimes of violence directed against gays and lesbians involve a greater degree of injury than the average assault. The revised U.C.R. survey contains information on the severity of assaults reported to the police across Canada. Recent statistics show that of all assaults reported involving a male victim, major injuries were involved in fewer than one case in ten reported to the police (see Roberts, 1994c: 83). This is also consistent with research in the United States.

The majority of these incidents (53 percent) had not been reported to the police. Approximately 40 percent had been reported to the police, while a further three individuals planned to report the incident. This information was unavailable for 14 cases (no information are directly available on why individual victims did not report the incident). The fact that most incidents had not been reported to the police explains, in part, why such a small number result in official action by the criminal justice system. Of the 239 reports recorded by the hotline, only 104 were reported to the police. Of these, charges were laid in 8 cases, and convictions recorded in only 2 cases. Convictions are recorded in a very small percentage of crimes committed.

However, the data from the 519 Church Street Toronto Hotline suggest that a much smaller percentage of hate crimes result in a conviction. Recent data from Statistics Canada show that on average, a conviction is recorded in approximately one crime in twenty. The percentage of hate crimes resulting in a conviction is clearly much smaller.

An analysis of calls to a hotline is no substitute for systematic research. For obvious reasons, such calls are likely to represent a somewhat distorted image of violence against the gay community. Nevertheless, in the absence of more rigorous research, this source of information is the best available. However, superior data relating to anti-gay incidents in Toronto will soon be available. In 1995, the 519 Church Street Community Centre conducted a survey of the gay and lesbian community in Toronto. The questionnaire contained a number of in-depth questions relating to harassment and physical and verbal abuse. Since it was a survey, and not an analysis of calls to a hotline, the responses are likely to give a far more accurate image of anti-gay violence in the Toronto Community. <The results of the survey should be available in early 1996. Readers interested in further information are advised to contact the 519 Church street Community Centre in Toronto, the address of which is provided in the Appendix to this report.>


Unfortunately, statistics on hate crimes in Montreal are restricted to the police data. The only non-criminal justice data come from a study conducted by the Table de concertation des lesbiennes et des gais du Grand Montreal. This study was conducted A over a three-month period in 1993. It was discontinued only as a result of a lack of resources. Over the period covered there were 54 reported incidents. However, some e of these reports (as with other victimization surveys) concerned incidents that took place prior to the period covered by the survey. Accordingly, it is impossible to draw conclusions about the numbers of incidents, and whether the rate of anti-gay crime is higher in Montreal than Toronto. However, the data are useful for providing information on the nature of the crimes. The Montreal statistics confirm the picture emerging from Toronto. Thus, over half the incidents involved violence. In fact, acts of aggression were the most frequent category of incident reported. Almost all (83 percent) of the victims were gay men. Almost half the incidents resulted in physical trauma, and one-quarter resulted in material loss of some kind.

These data support the findings from other jurisdictions which show that crimes of hate directed against the gay community are more likely to involve violence, or the threat of violence, than hate crimes directed at other groups.

Before leaving the Montreal data it is worth noting that evidence exists in that city of the most extreme form of hate crime. In December 1992, two gay men were murdered by groups of teenagers, and since then there have been several more such incidents. Over the period 1988 to 1995, thirty gay individuals have been murdered under conditions that strongly suggest a homophobic motivation. In March, 1995, The Globe and Mail reported the murder of Quebec actor Richard Niquette, who was stabbed to death by men who preyed on homosexuals. The Globe noted that he was the "19th gay man to be killed under similar circumstances in the past four years" (Globe and Mail, March 3, 1995). This most extreme form of hate crime, which can provoke widespread alarm among members of the community, clearly requires a vigorous response from the criminal justice system, beginning with the police. Finally, it should be noted that some respondents in both cities reported acts of aggression by police officers. These remain unsubstantiated at present, and until evidence is adduced to substantiate them it would be unwise to judge the officers concerned. However, acts of aggression by police officers are obviously far more serious than similar crimes by civilians as they undermine public confidence and reduce still further the likelihood that these crimes will be reported to the criminal justice system.

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