Chief Seeks Stronger Laws On Hate Crimes

Kelly Pedro, London (Ontario) Free Press, Feb. 7, 2007

Canada needs to beef up its hate crime legislation to reflect what modern hate crimes are about, London’s top cop said yesterday.

“The law doesn’t reflect what I think society is expecting of it,” said Chief Murray Faulkner.

“When we talk about hate crime, most people think you can turn to a page in the Criminal Code . . . but really hate crime in the Criminal Code is an add-on to a punishment section, not an offence in itself.”

Faulkner said the legislation is written so that an offence where charges are laid where there is a hate or racially motivated action are dealt with at sentencing by a judge.

“That’s kind of a backwards way of looking at this issue,” he said.

Yesterday, Statistics Canada released 2005 data collected for the first time on hate-motivated crimes, cyber crimes, street gangs and organized crimes.

Two forces—London and Ottawa—had enough information for statistics to be compiled.

London police investigated 38 occurrences that had a hate or bias component in them. Of those, 10 resulted in charges, including murder, criminal harassment, assault and uttering threats, police said.

In a handful of those cases where there was a conviction, police applied to have the hate-motivation of the crime considered during sentencing, said Det. Don McKinnon, head of the force’s hate crime unit.

One of those applications was made for the sentencing of Jamie Vandersanden, who pleaded guilty last February to killing his ex-girlfriend Laura Wilson.

During the hearing, Justice Roland Haines said Vandersanden’s possessiveness and jealousy and “his bias against homosexuals was part of his motivation in committing this offence.”

Vandersanden was sent to prison for life with no chance of parole for 17 years.

Faulkner said few sections in the criminal code specifically deal with hate crime and revolve around public incitement of hate, genocide and damaging a religious institution.

“That’s not really what modern hate crimes are about,” he said.

The data allows communities to assess not only the number of hate crimes but which are prevalent, said Warren Silver, an analyst with Statistics Canada.

Of London’s 38 occurrences, 22 dealt with race or ethnicity, nine with sexual orientation and seven with religion. Very few of the 38 involved crimes against people and most relate to graffiti or property damage, McKinnon said.

The data is a “helpful tool for police dealing with communities and patrolling responsibilities,” Silver said.

Politicians also use the information when looking at legislation.

McKinnon said hate motivated crimes are still under reported and the force has spent a lot of time on education.

“We’ve spent a lot of time educating people about what is a hate crime and importance of reporting hate crime,” he said.

Statistics Canada collected the data—ranging from hate crime to organized crime—for the first time.

The numbers show in 2005, city police also probed 30 cases of cyber crime, seven involving street gangs and 10 involving organized crime.

WHAT THE LAW SAYS

• Under the Criminal Code of Canada, someone can be charged if they are promoting genocide by supporting killing members of an identifiable group distinguished by colour, race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

• A person can be charged with public or wilful incitement of hate if they incite hatred against an identifiable group in a public place in a way that would lead to a breach of peace.

• A person can be charged with mischief if they damage a building used for religious worship if they are motivated by hate or bias based on race, religion, colour or ethnic origin

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