Province announces funding boost to help prevent hate-motivated crimes

As part of the 2022 budget, the province has increased funding earmarked to help faith institutions and other community groups protect against hate-motivated crimes, from $2 million to $5 million per year. 

2022 budget increased by $3 million for protective measures for places of worship and others

Premier Kenney spoke to reporters at the Calgary Vietnamese Alliance Church on Sunday about increasing funding for the Alberta Security Infrastructure Program. (CBC)

As part of the 2022 budget, the province has increased funding earmarked to help faith institutions and other community groups protect against hate-motivated crimes, from $2 million to $5 million per year. 

Premier Jason Kenney made the announcement with Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Tyler Shandro at the Calgary Vietnamese Alliance Church on Sunday, which was targeted by arson last July. 

"While it saddens me that many religious and ethnic organizations and Indigenous groups need this protection, I am proud of this government's commitment to helping keep them safe. Our province continues to stand against hate and violence, and alongside those targeted by these terrible crimes," said Kenney in a statement.

The pastor of the Calgary Vietnamese Alliance Church, Thai Nguyen, said the church is still recovering from the damage caused by the fire.

"It was a nightmare," he said. 

The grant money from the province was first announced last summer, shortly before a number of churches were damaged or vandalized by fires after the discovery of unmarked graves at former residential school sites across Canada. 

"I think we are all united in condemning the wickedness of that [residential school] system," said Kenney. "But recognizing that time of injustice in no way can justify acts of hateful violence inflicted against faith communities."

In the case of the Calgary Vietnamese Alliance Church, Calgary Police said in a statement that their arson unit is still investigating the fire at the church, but they have determined that this incident was unrelated to the confirmation of unmarked graves at residential schools.

Religious institutions, not-for-profit agencies, registered charities and other organizations or at-risk groups can apply for money from the Alberta Security Infrastructure Program for things like fences, alarm systems, cameras, motion detectors and anti-graffiti sealant.

"When we began accepting applications it quickly became clear that demand for the program was greater than its initial budget could accomodate," said Shandro.

Increase in hate-motivated crimes

There have been a number of high profile hate-motivated crimes reported to police in the past few years.

In Edmonton police recently charged a 34-year-old man after a Black Muslim woman was attacked in front of her children outside of a mosque on New Year's Day. 

Last year, Calgary police said the number of hate-motivated crimes reported to police, jumped up by 44 per cent.

In 2021, there were 346 hate-motivated crimes reported. In 2020, there were 240. 

Police cautioned that this spike in cases could be in part due to the pandemic — where more people stayed at home and did not report as many incidents. But, they have seen a steady increase over the past few years. 

Some of the hate-related crimes police investigated in 2021 included, racist graffiti spray painted across the road from a Sikh temple in southwest Calgary, a Muslim woman who was verbally attacked downtown while with her children and a case in May where police laid charges against a man who pulled over and attacked a Palestinian man's car and made derogatory comments about Islam.

On Feb. 26 the All Saints Russian Orthodox Church in Calgary was vandalized with red paint on its front doors. The vandalism happened a week after Russia's war on Ukraine began. 

The vandalism is currently being investigated by the Calgary Police Service's hate crimes team.

The province said in a statement that they will be accepting applications for this new funding in the spring and fall.