Montreal police unveil new hate crimes unit

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre and the city's police chief, Philippe Pichet, have unveiled a new police unit dedicated to documenting incidents motivated by hate.

New unit will compile information on incidents motivated by hate, work to prevent their escalation

Mayor Denis Coderre and Montreal's police chief, Philippe Pichet, jointly announced the city's new hate-crimes unit on May 25, 2016. (Peter McCabe/The Canadian Press)

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre and the city's police chief, Philippe Pichet, unveiled a new police unit dedicated to hate crimes and incidents motivated by hate Wednesday.

The unit is billed as the first of its kind in Quebec.

"The unit will be tasked with centralizing all information on both hate crimes and incidents motivated by hate," Coderre said.

While the city's police force has documented and investigated hate crimes for years, the focus on incidents motivated by hate is unique.

Such incidents involve non-criminal acts that affect an individual or identifiable group's sense of security and are believed to be motivated by race, national or ethnic origin, language, skin colour, sex, religion, sexual orientation, age or disability.

"The incidents have a troubling effect on the victims and lead to a heightened sense of insecurity," Coderre said.

"These incidents can also lead to actual hate crimes, a precursor to something more serious."

The new unit will be a first point of contact for Montrealers touched by such incidents.

'Deeper analysis'

The information gathered will allow police to identify situations with the potential for becoming hate crimes and intervene in order to prevent them.

"Prevention is the framework here," Coderre said. "We want to stop these incidents from going further."

Pichet said the unit's clearinghouse role will allow for a "deeper analysis" and a better understanding of incidents motivated by hate.

Pichet also said the unit will provide support and accompany individuals or communities touched by these incidents.

"We have a tendency to analyze phenomena by numbers, by statistics, by data," he said.

"But these incidents affect human beings and communities."

Coderre said the unit responds to concerns raised by a number of community groups and emerged out of a focus group on anti-Semitism that he took part in last year.

The mayor said the new police unit will work closely with the city's anti-radicalization centre, created last year, among other local organizations.