When Is A Crime Considered A Hate Crime In Canada?

October 14, 2021

When Is A Crime Considered A Hate Crime In Canada?

Hate crimes have been a persistent issue in Canada and with numbers increasing by the day, many citizens are wondering why the police have been slow to label many offensive acts.

Data regarding hate crimes show that the numbers have increased from a low of 1167 incidents in 2013 to a high of 2073 in 2017. Although the numbers have decreased by 13% to 1,798 in 2018, the number of hate crimes remains higher (with the exception of 2017) than any other year since 2009. Overall, the data shows an upward trend since 2014.

Note that these numbers only include a small number of crimes reported to the police. The impact of hate crimes exceeds the number of recorded incidents. One of the main reasons for this humble reporting is the fact that there is no definition of what a “hate crime” is in the Criminal Code.

Even though there are many acts that are called a ‘hate crime’, it is not an offence that the police can charge a person with. At most, a person can be charged with mischief but after that, it is up to the judge to decide whether to impose a longer sentence if she or he believes the crime of mischief was motivated by hate.

Moreover, recently, hate activity has also started down new electronic avenues such as the internet. This has also added to the complexity of the problem.

The Criminal Code On Hate Crime

The Criminal Code by the Government of Canada includes guidance that says sentences shall take into account evidence “that the offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or any other similar factor.”

The Criminal Code defines public incitement of hatred as:

  1. Anyone who, by communicating statements in any public place, incites hatred against any identifiable group where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace is guilty of
    1. an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years; or
    2. an offence punishable on summary conviction.
  1. Anyone who, by communicating statements, other than in private conversation, wilfully promotes hatred against any identifiable group is guilty of
    1. an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years; or
    2. an offence punishable on summary conviction.

Hate Crime In Canada

According to lawyers in Canada, hate crimes refer to criminal incidents that are found to have been motivated by hatred toward an identifiable group. These groups are distinguishable by race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression, or on any other similar factor.

This means that any criminal act has the potential to be a hate crime if the hate motivation can be proven. This became a criminal offence in Canada in 1970.

Victims Of Hate Crime

The data reveals that the following communities have mostly been the recipients of hate crime in the country.

  • Jewish community based on religion
  • Black community based on race or ethnicity
  • Individuals with different sexual orientations

Defences

As the Criminal Code details, an individual charged with hate crime can use the following defences:

  1. if he establishes that the statements communicated were true;
  2. if, in good faith, the person expressed or attempted to establish by an argument an opinion on a religious subject or an opinion based on a belief in a religious text;
  3. if the statements were relevant to any subject of public interest, the discussion of which was for the public benefit, and if on reasonable grounds he believed them to be true; or
  4. if, in good faith, he intended to point out, for the purpose of removal, matters producing or tending to produce feelings of hatred toward an identifiable group in Canada.

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