Racist hate crimes in city mobilize community
With three alleged white supremacist hate group members facing trial, several groups are building an anti-racism campaign.
After a series of high-profile hate crimes in B.C., including damage to a Jewish cemetery in Victoria last month – and recent criminal charges for the burning of a Filipino man and assaults on Black, Hispanic and Native people several years ago – anti-racist activists are organizing a renewed drive to stamp out racism in Vancouver.
With three alleged members of the hate group Blood and Honour facing trial – one of them tomorrow – for a string of attacks on people of colour, several groups are organizing around the upcoming February 13 trial of Alistair Miller and Robert de Chazal.
The pair – who were arrested in December – are accused of pouring kerosene over a sleeping Filipino man and lighting him on fire in 2009, and then attacking a black man who intervened. Tomorrow's trial centres around another alleged Blood and Honour member, Shawn MacDonald, charged with separate attacks on an Indigenous women, a Hispanic man and a black man in Vancouver.
“We're interested in building an anti-racist campaign,” said Krystle Alarcon with the Filipino-Canadian Youth Alliance (FCYA). “People think of multicultural Canada, and of Vancouver as a beautiful and diverse city. But racism exists in Vancouver.
“These were very clear acts of outright racist ideology.”
The migrant justice group No One Is Illegal announced plans this morning to attend MacDonald's trial tomorrow and is also rallying around the February 13 court date. The group said that hate crimes stem from systemic problems of racism in Canadian society – listing colonization of Indigenous peoples, Conservative immigration policies, and anti-Chinese and anti-Muslim sentiment as examples.
“Racism is an ugly truth about Canada,” said the No One Is Illegal statement. “The crimes of white supremacists are not exceptions, because they exist amidst an underlying racism that continuously places people of colour as Outsiders from an imagined White Canadian identity.
“We encourage our friends and allies to remain vigilant, to be pro-active in countering racism, to strengthen our communities of solidarity and resistance, and to never let the haters have power over us.”
Alarcon questioned why the Vancouver Police Department (VPD)'s hate crimes unit took more than two years to lay charges against the Blood and Honour members. In MacDonald's case, his alleged 2008 beating of Papi Ngoqo, a South African man, was captured on video by a CBC camera. In de Chazal and Miller's case, several witnesses came forward to describe the attack.
“The really slow reaction from the police – two years to actually respond – is the generally legal atmosphere where racism isn't taken that seriously in Vancouver,” Alarcon said. “It seems the police know the group – there's enough evidence for the police to shut them down, or investigate their operations.”
The VPD said it could not discuss details of its Blood and Honour investigation, but said that investigations often last years before charges are laid. In December, the department displayed white supremacist flags and materials seized by officers after the arrests of Miller, MacDonald and de Chazal.
“Incidents involving potential hate bias or prejudice are extremely important to the VPD,” said spokesperson Cst. Lindsey Houghton in an email. “We want to be able to investigate crimes and assist victims of crimes so we encourage anyone who’s been the victim of a crime to contact us. Everyone deserves to have the police investigate if they’ve been a victim of a crime.