Spike in calls about hateful comments since mosque shooting, Montreal police chief says
35 officers, 20 civilians to be hired to monitor hate crimes, contribute to anti-radicalization
Montreal police have seen a sudden spike in hate-related incidents in the two days since Sunday's shooting in Quebec City, the city's police chief, Philippe Pichet, said Tuesday.
"Since Sunday, we've had 14 calls related to hate speech," Pichet said.
In two cases, investigators were able to track down the people responsible for those comments, and in both cases, those people apologized, he said. No charges have been laid.
He commended citizens for coming forward and alerting authorities to hateful comments on social media or elsewhere.
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"It's important for all citizens that if they feel there is something wrong, they have to denounce it to the police. We'll treat every case we have," he said, suggesting that is the best way to prevent a hate crime.
"It can start with a hateful comment," he said.
Pichet said the Montreal police force saw a 20 per cent increase in reports of hateful incidents or hate crimes from 2015 to 2016, although he can't say whether that's because people are being encouraged to come forward and report such incidents or because there has been an increase in the incidents themselves.
Since the police launched a special unit to monitor hate crimes and hate incidents on the island of Montreal last May, he said, there were a total of 55 such incidents reported.
The police service is adding 35 more officers and 20 civilians to that unit — what it's calling its Agenda vigilance, announced in the 2017 budget last November.
The job of those hired, Pichet said in an interview with CBC News, will be to monitor social media and carry out other tasks related to the prevention of hate-based incidents, as well as dealing with anti-radicalization efforts and vulnerable clientele.
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Increased police presence
Since the shooting, in which 6 people died and 19 were injured, the Montreal police force has increased its presence near points of interest, including places of worship, and made contact with different groups that had concerns.
"If that happened with the Muslim community, it could happen with other communities. It's important for us to put some measures in place to make sure that the people are feeling safe," Pichet said.
He said 250 Montreal officers are trained to deal with terrorist threats, and the SPVM is working in close partnership with the Sûreté du Québec and RCMP.
with files from Lauren McCallum