Few mechanisms in place to monitor hate speech and white supremacist activity in Canada, anti-racism expert says

A mourner at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin (left), gunman and white supremacist Wade Michael Page (right). Graphic by Beth Hong for The Vancouver Observer.

Canadians disturbed by white supremacist Wade Michael Page's shooting rampage at a Wisconsin Sikh temple that killed seven people on August 5 should be worried about what could happen in Canada, says an anti-racism expert who has tracked white supremacist groups in Canada for over twenty years.

Alan Dutton, co-founder of the Canadian Anti-racism Education and Research Society (CAERS) and and member of the Stop Racism and Hate Collective, said that Canadians ought to be more aware of the state of hate crime monitoring in their own backyard.

"Whereas other countries are moving to enact provisions to monitor hate crime, Canada is removing them," Dutton said. He noted that the internet is becoming an increasingly fertile recruitment tool for white supremacist groups in Canada, but there are dangerously few mechanisms in place to monitor their growth with the weakening of online hate speech and group monitoring, and lack of political leadership on the issue. 

Hate crime underreported in Canada

According to the latest Statistics Canada figures, police reported 1,401 hate crimes in 2010, or 4.1 hate crimes per 100,000 Canadians. Over half (53 per cent) were motivated by race or ethnicity, while 29.5 per cent were religiously motivated, and 16 per cent were motivated by sexual orientation.

Police-reported hate crimes in Canada (2010). Graph by Beth Hong or The Vancouver Observer, based on figures from Statistics Canada.

In BC, the most shocking and most explicit case of hate-motivated violence against Sikhs remains the beating death of Nirmal Singh Gill in the parking lot of the Guru Nanak Gurdwara in Surrey in January 1998 by five racist skin heads. Dutton said that there are many smaller crimes that occur in the community that people don't report out of fear or apprehension about the police or retaliation. What's needed is a coordinated effort between community members, elected leaders, and police.

Currently, hate speech is still banned under the Criminal Code of Canada in sections 318, 319, and 320 as "hate propaganda." While hate crime units exist at municipal and provincial levels, the RCMP does not keep any specific database of hate crimes or active hate groups in Canada.

No national database of hate crime or hate groups in Canada
"Hate crime characteristics of an incident are collected on our records management systems as part of the Statistics Canada UCR 2.2 survey," wrote RCMP spokesperson Laurence Trottier in an email to The Vancouver Observer. "There is no hate crime specific database used by the RCMP."

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