The underreporting of hate crimes in Canada

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Seven months after Mohamed-Aslim Zafis, 58, was brutally killed outside a Rexdale mosque, Toronto police released a new report which details the statistics and specific types of hate motivated offenses committed against individuals in 2020.

The murder of Zafis is not one of these crimes.

The glaring omission of the murder is striking – especially when you consider Zafis’ family and the community itself begged the police to treat it as a hate crime.

When the suspect’s name leaked, the Canadian Anti-Hate Network immediately scanned their social media. Our results suggest that the suspect is someone who subscribes to the most dangerous hate-mongering conspiracy theories, including “the great replacement”.

The theory dangerously asserts that white Europeans – and North Americans – are being intentionally replaced by immigration and low birth rates. While the original theory focused on an alleged Muslim invasion, more recent proponents of the theory superimpose it on anti-Semitism.

In August 2017, he inspired more than 200 American neo-Nazis to march through Charlottesville, Virginia in a torchlight parade screaming “Jews will not replace us,” the injuries and tragic murder of anti-racist Heather Heyer by one of the whites. supremacists.

In March 2019, another hater attacked Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 51 innocent Muslims and leaving 40 injured. The New Zealand government Royal Commission on the Attack singled out terrorists’ belief in the Great Replacement as one of the motivating racist factors.

While the story of Zafis’ death has made the news around the world, the question of whether the police are not treating what are arguably obvious hate crimes as hate crimes is not new. .

A Angus Reid Poll, released mid-2020, revealed that almost a third of Chinese Canadians say they were physically assaulted during the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet only 12 incidents of hate crimes against Chinese Canadians are included in the report.

Studies tell us that only one to five percent hate incidents in Canada are reported to the police. The actual number of hate crimes and incidents is actually 20 to 100 times higher.

Members of communities targeted by hate-motivated attacks often do not report them. In some cases, the number of victims who do not report is more than two thirds. When attacks are reported, police consider many to be unfounded – either they do not believe the victim, see no point in continuing to report, or fail to investigate. They report forward only a small subset that they have at least partially studied successfully.

Fortunately, Toronto police made an arrest within a week of Zafis’ murder. So why was his death not included in the 2020 hate crimes report? Some answers may lie in a new study by Barbara Perry of the Center on Hate, Bias and Extremism at Ontario Tech University, which involved interviewing police officers in Ontario.

Officers expressed frustration with the process. The only hate crime under the Criminal Code is the deliberate promotion of hatred. Other offenses, such as assault or vandalism, may be subject to more severe sentencing provisions if the offense is motivated by hate, with the police providing evidence to the Crown. Officers told Perry that they generally don’t succeed and that cases “just just disappear into the void.”

Some officers have frankly admitted that they feel police services are failing to meet their obligations to make communities feel comfortable coming forward.

“I don’t think we’re doing enough to make sure the community feels like it will be taken seriously,” one officer noted.

So what does it say to the Muslim community when Zafis’ murder is not counted as hate crimes?

The alleged killer’s YouTube channel had recorded xenophobic videos perpetuating the myth of itinerant migrant gangs, and snippets of Russian propaganda media on “the Belgian Muslim state”.

And, of course, the big replacement.

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It is not difficult to distinguish between these toxic ideas and the cold-blooded murder of a Muslim serving his community outside his neighborhood mosque.

One can certainly understand the fear within racialized communities when obvious hate crimes like the deaths of the Zafis are not seen as such.

Hate crimes in Toronto increased 51%, according to the new report. But when you consider that only 1-5% of hate crimes and incidents are reported, the question remains: what about the remaining 95%?

Bernie M. Farber is president of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network. Elizabeth simons is its deputy director. Follow him @antihateca



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