A new report from the city's policing service shows Hamilton saw the number of reported hates crimes drop last year, but the document raises concern about prejudice the city’s black community continues to endure.
According to a presentation that’s set to go in front of the city’s police board on Monday, Hamilton law enforcement officials investigated 11 “hate/bias-motivated crimes” last year, down from 16 in 2012 .
“The Hamilton Police Service [Hate Crimes Unit] has seen a significant decrease in the Hate-motivated crimes,” the report said in its conclusion. “However we will remain committed to education the public and our service on hate crimes.”
According to the document, police deem an offence a hate crime if there is evidence that it was motivated, at least in part, by bias or prejudice against the victim’s race, ethnicity, religion, language, sex, age, physical or mental ability, or sexual orientation.
Most incidents involve racial, ethnic 'overtones'
Of the 2013 hate crimes, five were assaults, three were what police call “wilful promotion of hatred,” two were cases of graffiti and one involved the uttering of a threat.
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Calls to police about incidents that included hate-related “overtones” also decreased last year, the report says.
In 2013, Hamilton police investigated 111 incidents that involved hate or bias — usually cases where someone uttered racial epithets or other "odious remarks" — that weren’t proven to have been motivated by any kind of prejudice. That number's down from 143 in 2012.
Of the total 122 hate-related events — including hate-motivated crimes — reported to police in 2013, two thirds involved prejudice involving race or ethnicity. About 21 per cent included references to sexual orientation. And nearly 12 per cent involved prejudice based upon the victim’s religion.
Police reported a single a case of a “hate/bias incident” directed a person or group with a disability.
The report’s authors don’t outline why they believe hate-related incidents are going down.
However, the document cited the police department’s 2013 efforts to address hate and discrimination — programs that included community outreach, officer training, and consultation with the local Crown attorneys’ office.
Curbing 'anti-black sentiment'
Despite its positive tone, the report raises concerns about prejudice that Hamilton’s black community still faces. Fifty-six, or nearly half, of all hate-related incidents in 2013 were directed at or included overtones that denigrated people of African descent.
“It’s perennial problem,” said Evelyn Myrie, the executive director of the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion, a non-profit organization that promotes social equality.
“Members of the African-Canadian community are quite aware of a strong anti-black sentiment that has not gone away.”
More public and private resources need to be devoted to educating the public on anti-black racism, she said.
The problem, Myrie added, plagues not only Hamilton, but communities across Canada.
“The issue needs a voice and it doesn’t get a voice,” she said. “It’s not the flavour of the month. People suffer in silence.
“They just feel as though it doesn’t get the attention it deserves.”