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.
“It is not uncommon for criminal investigations to last a significant period of time as evidence is gathered, a criminal case built up, and information compiled before it is submitted to Crown Counsel for their consideration.”
VPD's hate crimes unit was asked about incident statistics but did not respond by press time.
Alan Dutton, chair of Canada's Anti-Racism and Education and Research Society (CAERS), told the Vancouver Observer he is pleased the alleged Blood and Honour members were arrested – but questioned how seriously the legal system is taking hate crimes. He said members of Blood and Honour being released on bail raises many concerns.
“I can't understand how or why these individuals are not in jail – why are they out on bail?” Dutton asked. “These are serious charges. It certainly looks like they're hate-crime involved. Why are they out walking the streets?”
The veteran anti-hate researcher – who has documented racist groups for 25 years – told the Vancouver Observer that he believes hate crimes are on the rise in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland.
“In the early 2000s, we saw ... the ebb of hate group activity,” Dutton said. “Now what we're seeing is the growth again.
“This is spurred on by continuing fears about the economy – downturns in the economy always result in people blaming others, in particular minorities and immigration for the loss of jobs, when we know that's not the case. That is one of the ways they mobilize young people and get them to join hate groups – by blaming other people for the problems we're facing.”
Alarcon told the Vancouver Observer she witnessed exactly that phenomenon recently on a bus from Joyce Skytrain station.
“A guy walked onto the bus,” she recalled. “(He) said, 'You guys' – it was a bus full of immigrants from Joyce station – 'You should go back and build our railway, this is our land, you're stealing our jobs.'
“Nobody said anything except me ... calling him out for being a white supremacist.”
Dutton said that Commercial Drive – where the Blood and Honour incidents occurred – has a several-decade history with organized hate groups. But many other parts of the city have seen activity, he said, citing New Westminster, Surrey and Richmond in particular.
He said that incidents of hate crimes reflect a growing acceptability of racial prejudice across class lines in Canadian society, and fears and resentments which can can be stoked by government policies such as the recent ban on Muslim face coverings at citizenship ceremonies and the deportations of thousands of allegedly “fraudulent” immigrants.
“If you don't have that underlying racism in society, then hate groups would never be able to recruit,” Dutton said. “When you have politicians that appear to be blaming people who are Muslim and who appear to be different, you are going to have resentment and fear – people will use that as a basis for mobilizing young people.
“What we see, across Western Europe and in North America, is the rise again of organized hate groups and political parties representing those hate groups. We are very concerned that we do not have the mobilization of the community at this point.”
Dutton, Alarcon and No One Is Illegal all agreed that mobilization many people to speak out against racism is essential to combatting the rise of hate crimes and white supremacist groups. Dutton cites previous mass rallies in Vancouver for the decline in hate activities in the late 1990s, and praised hundreds of Victorians who rallied in December against attacks on a Jewish cemetery.
“Mobilization – this is the critical factor – mobilizing the community against hate,” he said. “There were pickets, there were marches, there were massive demonstrations.
“We need to be aware of what's going on and bring out large numbers of people to demonstrate against hate.”