Is the 'Trump effect' causing a spike in hate crimes in Canada?

Ryan Scrivens, PhD Candidate in the School of Criminology at Simon Fraser University, says the election of Donald Trump has made Canadian racists more bold.

Three incidents in three cities in just one week

Ryan Scrivens, PhD Candidate in the School of Criminology at Simon Fraser University, says the election of Donald Trump has made Canadian racists more bold.

In Ottawa, a teenage boy, police confirmed Saturday, was arrested after a spate of racist graffiti targeting religious communities. 

In Toronto last Monday night, a man was caught on camera hurling racist insults and threatening another man on a streetcar full of commuters.

In Hamilton, a black woman shared on Facebook her story about an incident in the checkout line at Hamilton store Sunday Nov. 13 where she said a white man who looked about 65 to 70 years-old "turned around to face me while pointing at the front page of a newspaper (which has Trump's face filling the entire page), and said, (as he continued pointing at the paper and holding my gaze) 'I'm glad he got in. I hope he cleans up the whole of North America.'"

Three incidents. Three cities. In just one week. It wasn't always like this. 

CBC Hamilton's Conrad Collaco spoke with Ryan Scrivens who is a PhD Candidate in the School of Criminology at Simon Fraser University. He is also the Coordinator of the Canadian Network of PhD Theses Writers for the Terrorism Research Initiative.

          Ryan Scrivens, School of Criminology, Simon Fraser University

Ryan Scrivens is a PhD student in the School of Criminology at Simon Fraser University. (Simon Fraser University)

          Some people are saying these racist acts are directly tied to Trump winning the election. What do you think of that? 

Too soon to tell. If you look at Canada's past ingrained in the Canadian fabric are acts of violence of the far right. Right-wing extremism is not new in Canada. Trump has made hate a little bit more legitimate. Trump's ideologies are more tolerated now in mainstream society.

Why haven't we paid more attention to far-right violence prior to Trump's election?

It's easier to pinpoint people who look different like brown Muslims. It's easy to see others as a threat to Canada. When you have white people going around protecting white ideals they're not going to be at the top of the priority list by comparison.

Media publicity has been a big thing as well. There is constant discussion about attacks by ISIS, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah but the far right tends to be swept under the rug.

One far-right group known to be organizing in Canada and, in particular, in Hamilton is the Soldiers of Odin. What can you tell us about them?

They argue that they are not a right-wing extremist group. Their whole mantra is that they are trying to clean up the streets and be a community-based group but hands down they are a right-wing extremist group. They wear the same outfits as the right-wing extremist groups in Finland. Their message is clear that Muslims are not wanted. The people at the top end of their hierarchy are known white supremacists. I don't know who they think they are fooling.

The right-wing extremist movement has tried to do these things before. That is, make their message more palatable to the mainstream. That's what the Soldiers of Odin are doing. They still inject messages of hatred but are not coming out like a Neo-Nazi skinhead group saying they promote violence.

Do Canadian police and national security agencies take these threats as seriously as they should?

I don't know how seriously they are taking them. I do know police associations are not being fooled by them. I do presentations for police on the far right. They know what's going on with Soldiers of Odin. They know what they are all about. But Soldiers of Odin are fooling members of the community. Hamilton has done a pretty good job of sending a clear message to the Soldiers that they are just not tolerated. Other communities have not picked up on the fact these individuals are not a community based group.

          What's the most effective way to respond and deal with public displays of racism and hate crimes?

A really good approach is what we call multi-sectoral. Right-wing extremism doesn't operate within a vacuum. Right-wing extremism is not just law enforcement concern. It's a community concern. It's a societal concern. If law enforcement can work closely with community activists, those involved in anti-extremist movements, educators — they can all work together on different pieces of the puzzle to paint a more clear picture of what's really going on with the far right.