Hamilton has the highest rate of hate crimes in Canada: report

Hamilton has the highest number of police-reported hate crimes in Canada according to a new report from Statistics Canada.

Mayor Fred Eisenberger was not available for comment on the report

Ninety-seven incidents of hate were reported to the police in Hamilton in 2018. (Terry Asma/CBC)

Hamilton has the highest rate of police-reported hate crimes in Canada — almost three times more than Toronto.

"It's not a surprise," says Kojo Damptey, manager of programs at the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion (HCCI). 

Statistics Canada published a report on Monday that shows the rate of hate crimes reported to the police out of 100,000 people in Hamilton in 2018 was 17.1. That includes a total of 97 incidents of hate reported to the police in Hamilton last year.

The national rate out of 100,000 people was 4.9 while in Toronto; the rate there was 6.4.

Quebec City had the second highest rate of police-reported hate crimes behind Hamilton at 11 per 100,000 people; 89 cases were reported in 2018.

Ottawa was third at a rate of 9.8 per 100,000 people last year, with 105 incidents reported last year.

Damptey says he does not feel safe in Hamilton.

He points to the yellow vest rallies every Saturday in front of Hamilton city hall, and says that even though people complained the city didn't do anything to address it until violence broke out at the Hamilton Pride festival in June.

"People who practice the faith of Islam now on Saturday don't walk in front of city hall," Damptey says.

"Think about that for a second. The place that's supposed to be the beacon of safety of everyone in our city, people can't walk there on Saturday morning."

Damptey says the elected officials at the city of Hamilton need to address the rising hate in Hamilton, that they need to, "acknowledge that our city has a huge issue with racism, discrimination, and prejudice," he says.

CBC News contacted Mayor Fred Eisenberger's office for a comment on the hate crime report statistics. His communications person said he would be unavailable to comment today.

"Well, that says a lot!" Damptey says.

Yellow vest protesters have been protesting at city hall on Saturdays since the beginning of the year. In June, city councillors instructed the city manager to investigate what could be to stop them and other far-right groups in the city hall forecourt. In July, the city came up with a plan that would give security greater powers.

The city has also taken heat for employing Marc Lemire, the former head of a white supremacy organization, in its IT department. He is currently on leave during a city investigation.

According to the report, the rate of reported hate crimes across Canada was lower in 2018 than 2017, while in Hamilton, the rate has risen every year since 2014.

This is reflected in the number of calls to the HCCI, Damptey says, from people saying that are told at work to "Go back to where you came from" to people getting called the N-word. 
Kojo Damptey works with the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion. He says hate is growing in the city, and that elected officials need to start taking it seriously. (Bandcamp.com)

Damptey says the numbers are actually worse than they seem. He says the actual rate is probably at least 50 per cent higher than reported.

"You have to remember that these numbers come from the police. If you go to the police," Damptey says, "they tell you they're not going to investigate. So, if they're not going to investigate, why go to the police?" 

Det. Paul Corrigan from Hamilton's Hate Crime Unit says, there are statistics from the United States and Canada that support what Damptey says. On average, Corrigan says a third of criminal offences don't get reported to the police.

But his message to the people of Hamilton: report anything that happens to you.

"We take it seriously," Corrigan says.

He says that racist slurs aren't illegal, but they are recorded, and they can be used in court to prove that somebody is a racist.

Reporting is also an important indicator of what's going on in our community, and Corrigan says that helps the police communicate with city officials to let them know the situation on the ground.

Corrigan says he's noticed people becoming more emboldened to express hatefulness, but he doesn't know why numbers in Hamilton are so high. 

"We have longstanding issues with hatred in Hamilton," says Ameil Joseph, an associate professor of social work at McMaster University. 
Ameil Joseph is an assistant professor studying racism at McMaster University's School of Social Work. He says he's experienced racism throughout his life. (Ameil Joseph)

"We have a history of hate groups in Hamilton that goes back over 80 years," says Joseph, "as well as anti-black racism within how we tell histories about Hamilton, and that is visible in leadership in Hamilton, across sectors."

Joseph says the numbers reported by Statistics Canada should be a signal to government agencies that they need to fund and support local organizations that support Hamilton communities affected by growing expressions of hate.

Damptey says people are becoming more bold in their expression of hatred, and that if people want to do something to address hate in Hamilton, they need to petition their elected officials.


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