Neo-Nazi group's racist hate crimes condoned by public apathy and silence: police
As an associate of neo-Nazi group Blood and Honour returned to court yesterday, police detectives give VO an exclusive glimpse inside their battle against hate crimes in BC. They say racist hate crimes are made possible by public apathy.
BC's failure to contain racism
“The very big demonstration against them on Commercial Drive on Sunday showed the strength of the community in fighting racism,” said Alan Dutton, with the Canadian Anti-racism Education and Research Society (CAERS). “Policing is not enough – it's the last resort.
“We have to have strong community organizations to oppose racism. . . You can't rely on policing agencies or government to be the main approach to fighting racism. They have to work with community organizations to be effective. In BC, that is a failure.”
The government support for community organizations is simply not there, Dutton explained, and under recently resigned provincial multiculturalism minister Harry Bloy, the situation got even worse. Aside from some school education programs and multiculturalism awareness, the province does not consult with grassroots anti-racist groups or fund community organizations. All that, Dutton qualified, is not to say the police are not doing their jobs – just that police are inadequate to addressing racism's systemic issues.
“It's really important what the BC Hate Crimes Team did – making the community aware that charges were being brought and that Blood and Honour is organizing in the province of British Columbia, and we have to pay attention to it,” Dutton said. “I congratulate the Hate Crimes Team for doing that.
“While we have good, capable officers in the police agencies who have done outstanding work, we're still in a situation with major problems – they're not being addressed.”
Inside hate crimes investigation
Wilson's story with fighting hate crimes started 17 years ago, on April 19, 1995. On that day Timothy McVeigh – an anti-government extremist and one-time Ku Klux Klan member – blew up a building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people, the deadliest terrorist event inside the U.S. until September 11, 2001. Wilson worked for the police in London, Ont. and started researching McVeigh's conspiracist ideology. When the province mandated that all communities create a hate crimes desk, Wilson got the job.
“Organized hate only accounts for a small portion of hate crimes in Canada. Most of them are individual acts of spontaneous violence, in individual acts of spontaneous property damage,” he said. “Hate crimes affect the community as a whole – giving a sense of safety to communities, that we're actually doing our jobs when it comes to hate crimes, is very rewarding.”
Levas jumped in, smiling as she describes her work as “rewarding” - despite many people's reluctance to report hate crimes they have experienced. She and Wilson both admit that most racist bias crimes go unreported – Levas speculates the reason may be a lack of awareness about what hate crimes are, or in the case of immigrants, a lack of trust in authorities.
“We don't hide behind our desks, we're out there and are involved in the community and are more than willing to talk to people,” Levas said. “The more we get out there, it would open up lines of communication between police and the community – and maybe that fear would be taken away a little bit, that resistance to speak to the police.”
Investigating white supremacists
So how do police investigate white supremacist groups? Unless someone is advocating genocide or inciting others to violence, there is not actually a “hate crime” one can be charged with. Instead, once a suspect is convicted of a crime, prosecutors can address the motivation of the crime during sentencing. So much of the detectives' work is piecing together information about their targets.