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Edmonton Workshop

 

Alberta Hate Crimes Committee

 

Edmonton Workshop Summary Report – Hate Crime Awareness Day Workshop

 

 

 

Welcome Remarks from Dean Fern Snart, Faculty of Education – University of Alberta: acknowledging the great work of Kris Wells and the Alberta Hate Crime Committee.

 

 

 

Welcome from Stephen Camp, Co-Chair – Alberta Hate Crime Committee: acknowledging commitment of members of the Chief Advisory Council and all other attendees. Brought attention to the Armenian Genocide and it’s anniversary. He thanked the Edmonton Police Service for their commitment to hate crime by establishing the Hate Crime Unit within the force. The Unit continues to evolve today and is an important part of delivering service in our community.  The Alberta Hate Crime Committee was initiated in 2002 with the goal to establish standard practices to hate crime such as training, having subject matter experts and coordination.  Three core areas of work are education, training of law enforcement and assisting victims of hate crime in order to establish a hate-free Alberta. The AHCC is about collaboration between government, police and community organizations. April 24, 2012 represents the 7th annual Hate Crime Awareness Day in the province.

 

 

 

Welcome from Chief Rod Knecht, Edmonton Police Service: recognized the valuable role that the Hate Crime Unit plays within Edmonton.  Why do we need this unit?  Real life example – two individuals go into a 7/11 and pepper spray an individual. It’s an assault. But if it’s a hate crime, let’s use the same incident and put more context around it. Two individuals bear spray a person of colour, make discriminatory statements; now we have a different context. Now we have a hate crime, but we wouldn’t know that’s what it was and be able to punish it appropriately without proper education. We only do this through education. These are the most serious offences. It’s quite similar to a terrorist offence; it’s all about the societal, psychological implications. All of a sudden you have multiple victims. 

 

 

 

Presentation on the Community Toolkit created by the Alberta Hate Crimes Committee: Stephen Camp provided an overview of the recently released toolkit and highlighted the website of the Alberta Hate Crimes Committee.  He noted that the toolkit is an important resource for communities to understand how to address hate crime and why it is important for a community to address this issue. If an Albertan is in a rural community for example, and there are limited social services, the toolkit is a proactive strategy to respond to community needs.

 

 

 

 

 

Workshop Discussion:

 

 

 

Reflection on the Definition of Hate Crime

 

The following definition was shared with participants:  An offence committed against a person or property which is motivated in whole or in part by the suspects’ hate, prejudice or bias against an identifiable group based on real or perceived race, national or ethnic origin, language, color, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation or any other similar factor.

 

·         One participant questions if the definition is consistent  with the protected grounds within the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and if not, they should be all included.  What would determine the difference between the two?

 

·         Gender and source of income (e.g. prostitution) need to be included in the definition.

 

·         Social status (e.g. homeless) does not necessarily fit into the definition but recently in Edmonton there have been murders of homeless people.  The NWT Human Rights Commission uses the term “social condition” for socio-economic status and should be considered here as well.

 

·         “identifiable group” is a term that is subject to on-going conversation as who should be included.

 

 

 

The group then discussed the difference between a hate incident versus a hate crime:

 

·         Often you need to know the context because it is crime specific. It has to have a criminal element to be a hate crime.

 

·         One key challenge is to have people report it (both incidents and crimes)

 

·         Free speech and hate is an uncomfortable conversation to have. Where’s the line between freedom of speech and hate speech?

 

·         The area that causes the most complaints from community members in regard to the police is this feeling that the police don’t care.  Hence there is a need for community conversation because people feel they cannot trust the police and this is a major challenge to overcome. Education needs to be a centrepiece to split the definition of an incident versus a crime. The community gets angry when they don’t understand the difference and when they see inaction, they get angry and it perpetuates distrust. How do you manage community expectations?

 

·         In certain circumstances, a phone call can be criminal.

 

·         Resources are the key element to dealing with hate crime which is connected to political will.

 

·         A downfall of the human rights commission is only having the ability to impose fines on people

 

·         Would like to see an office with paid staff and resources. There is thus a need to lobby Government for more sustainable funding.  Speaking to and writing letters to our MLAs about allocated funding would be an option for action.

 

·         In the case of Whatcott, there is a feeling of alienation in community when someone like him gets to operate with impunity

 

·         There is a subtle nature to hate crime that shifts and is within a grey zone.  Police feel the frustration as well.  It is all about context to shift from the incidence to crime.  It is important to report hate crimes because it might build the cases.

 

·         In order to educate, we need anecdotal examples from the hate crime unit. There is a desire to provide information to the community that will be helpful.  They also need to know the legal aspects in terms of confidentiality and protection of information.  There is often a contradiction between what a community needs and what prosecution needs.

 

·         Hate propaganda is a person distributing the hateful message and leading you to act on it. I am selling the idea of hate and wanted people to act on it.  If someone walks up to you and assaults you, assault is being committed. When you have a hate incidence, the difficulty is to prove the motivation and this is the core of evidence.  Getting information to the community is important but the evidence might not always be there.

 

 

 

Are we effectively dealing with hate crime in Edmonton?

 

What we are doing well:

 

·         Educating police officers and meeting with communities

 

·         See increase of hate crimes and incidents being reported because people are more aware

 

·         SROs are in the schools

 

·         The toolkit

 

·         Collaboration between like-minded groups

 

·         EPS is supportive and engaged. These are the benefits of a specialized unit.  They are very prompt and thorough in their work.  The Community Liaison Committees need to continue and improve over time and become more responsive.

 

·         Racism Free Edmonton and Human Rights City Edmonton are good positive examples.  The City is supportive and sends the right message. 

 

·         Proud of the mayor for breaking the silence during the recent election.

 

 

 

What we can improve:

 

·         Improve connection with the communities since they are starting to distrust police; especially immigrants who come from countries that have lost a basic trust in police.

 

·         Awareness is not included in the schools in the wider area.

 

·         The whole community needs to take responsibility for spreading the information

 

·         Community members need to have the courage to challenge each incident

 

·         Conversations about how to prove the motivation of the incident and crime

 

·         Conversation on community impact

 

·         Inaction/potential charges not pursued on part of law enforcement; there is a need for a successful prosecution

 

·         Awareness and citizenship engagement

 

·         Closer link between protected grounds of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the list related to hate crime.  In Boyle Street, there are homeless and economic status issues which are critical to address.  People have been kicked to deal from people outside the community and these are not isolated incidents.  Homeless people are targeted with violence but are also excluded in protection.

 

·         The Chief’s Advisory Committee has been around a long time and people don’t know about it or what they do. There is a need for more marketing and promotion of the committee.   The challenge of police culture is that sometimes they don’t bring the community in and it feels operational.  We need to find the fine line of how we can make the CAC more effective and heard.

 

·         Discussions are very police centric and this issue needs to be considered in Edmonton as a whole rather than fragmented in practise and knowledge.  It is a great struggle to get people who have similar goals to work together and don’t know about each other. The Chief’s Advisory Committee should stand with the Chief to speak out and have more voice in condemning acts of hate.  Work needs to be done with CAC to get the messages out. 

 

·         The CAC is constituted of volunteers who have involvement in many areas. Most have their hands full and aren’t given an external mandate. They only have an internal mandate to represent their community.  We need to think about how we can give CAC resources to get information out.  Promotions have been discussed but there is no one to organize and no commitment of wider resources to get messages out.  Until resources are three, it’s a hit and miss approach.

 

·         Evisceration of the Human Rights Commission

 

·         We see selected groups protected at the expense of others.  Racism is a ‘trend’ and politically expedient.  Need to look at discrimination more holistically.

 

·         Our language excludes the gay community.

 

 

 

What strategies can be put in place:

 

·         Having an open dialogue and talking about issues and their perception. Dialogue is a critical piece in the community that needs to be fostered. To have it flow both ways and establish the strong relationship with the immigrant community. People will be more willing to share and engage the community. Community involvement with the generation that come to Canada and the first generation children.

 

·         Engage communities in Northern areas as well.

 

·         Allocate resources toward educating the general public. We need to continue to dispel myths and stereotypes regarding immigrants, prostitutes, ethnic minorities etc.

 

·         People watch a lot of TV – connect with them through commercials and raising awareness through the news.

 

·         Include hate crime on the police website and an easy way to access information there.

 

·         Career events at Aboriginal communities; we should address the issue of hate crime at these events

 

·         The toolkit is needed within the education system. Young people are unaware about subject matter and having it in the community centres helps to educate people.  In the school curriculum, we also have to look at the values of uniqueness and diversity, assess the current tools being used and work with our elected officials. We need to be talking in schools about how great a country we are and implement diversity.  There is a need to teach rights and responsibilities and we will never be successful if we only deal with the outcomes. We need preventative measures.

 

·         Promoting one group without discriminating the other – reconciliation between both is critical. How can we pick one group over the other?  The example of the International Day against Racism was used as an example which focuses on certain groups and not others.  We need to recognize the intersections of race, gender, sexual orientation, age etc and not cherry pick.

 

·         We need to teach the toolkit to community members (e.g. young, marginalized kids who wouldn’t recognize a hate crime) by members of the hate crime unit – in schools and community centres. Different groups need to know how to access the toolkit.

 

·         enlarge the hate crimes unit in EPS

 

·         Making children aware and people aware. Making connections between actions and intentions – for example, if you draw a Swastika, what does that really mean? What’s the message behind it? Quite often children are shocked and horrified when they realize what they have said/drawn.

 

·         Identifiable groups need to build better relationships with police

 

·         School Resource Officers (SROs) need to be better educated and resources

 

·         People need to be better educated on what their rights are

 

·         Consider a Liaison Committee for socio-economic status and connect the idea of the Charter to the reality of the community.