Showing posts with label hate crimes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hate crimes. Show all posts

14 January 2024

"Hate is as old as man and doubtless as durable."


It is with great regret that I’m writing a follow-up article to last month’s Peace and Order, where I looked at the hate laws in Canada and stated: “This dramatic rise in hate motivated crime is testing our laws, our police response, legal system and things may have to change to meet the challenge.

Well, things have certainly changed over the last month but in a most unwelcome way. We have increasing attacks on Jewish Canadian schools, businesses and homes, so much so that it’s making international news. 

To this international audience, our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, said, “We’re seeing right now a rise in antisemitism that is terrifying.” 

On the same news video, Rabbi Saul Emanuel adds, “It has become accepted that you can go after any Jewish target” 

Why has it become acceptable to some people to go after Jewish Canadians? If you watch the video it is clear that the business set on fire has “Free Palestine” written on their window. There is no doubt that a segment of the protesters are using the tragedy of mounting deaths in Palestine to mount attacks against Jewish Canadians. 

That said, many reasonable non-antisemitic Canadians are also decrying the deaths of innocents in Palestine. It’s a complicated situation but what is a clear, uncontested fact is that some of these protesters are using the situation to engage in antisemitic hate crimes. Rather than argue this point, a picture is worth a thousand words and here is one of targeted arson at a Jewish-owned deli in Toronto.  The owner is a Jewish Canadian and no one who is sensible can argue firebombing his business will change anything in Palestine. It is pure antisemitic hate. 

On social media, a photo of a poster put up in a Jewish neighbourhood depicts the scale of the problem and where it can lead, so let’s break it down. 

The poster graphic looks old-school, like something you would find in a history book on the rise of antisemitism before WWII. The words harken to something more modern and warrant an analysis. 

“Imagine being so vile, sneaky and disgusting that laws have to be created to keep normal people from hating or condemning you.”

Certainly the cliche trope of the ‘vile, sneaky and disgusting’ Jew is old and a way that bigots have long justified their bigotry by suggesting it is the victim not the aggressor that is responsible. It is as absurd as robbing a store at gunpoint and claiming the store deserved to be robbed. 

The part referencing “the laws created to keep people from hating or condemning you” refers to hate laws in Canada, referenced in my previous article. They are laws that keep all Canadians safe. They also keep our democracy safe because a democracy is, by definition, a society where all can vote and participate - any attempt to sideline groups from full rights and safety is, by its nature, antidemocratic. We know that historically and in the present day, authoritarian governments attack certain groups, sideline them or murder them, on their way into power and continue to do so in power to underline that only a select few get to make decisions about that country. Targeting any group is a blatant attack on the democratic rights of all Canadians. 

Canadian hate laws, born from a 1965 Special Committee on Hate Propaganda chaired by Judge Maxwell Cohen, have been expanded to recently include online hate speech. Hate laws were created to protect all Canadians, including Jewish Canadians.

In words that are as applicable today as they were then, Cohen said, "On the one hand, there was a new emphasis on individual freedom. On the other side, there was a growing recognition that these very liberties could be dangerously abused.”

“The preface to the 1965 report warns, "Hate is as old as man and doubtless as durable." It also contains a warning that could as easily refer to the current spread of anti-Asian slurs through social media as to the anti-Semitic pamphlets and slogans that emerged in Cohen's day.

Ours is "a world aware of the perils of falsehood disguised as fact and of conspirators eroding the community's integrity through pretending that conspiracies from elsewhere now justify verbal assaults," Cohen wrote. He called them "the non-facts and the non-truths of prejudice and slander.” 

By attacking Jewish Canadians and the laws of Canada, this poster highlights the dangers we face as a nation. 

Someone with a better mind than I will have to sift through many of these issues. How do we ensure the right to protest - a crucial democratic right - while protecting Canadians who are targeted by some of the protesters? It’s complicated. What is not complicated is this: Jewish Canadians are protected by the same laws that protect us all and there is no justification for any attacks on them. None.  

10 December 2023

Peace and Order


At a dinner party I was once told by an American, that while Americans strive for 'Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness’, Canadians get the very unsexy ‘Peace, Order and Good Government’.

At the risk of sounding dull as dishwater, I’m a big fan of peace, order and good government. It’s reassuring. Although peace and order in the Constitution Act of 1867 refers to large issues, most of us understand it as it’s exemplified in everyday life. The quiet way we line up to take our turn or stop our cars at a crosswalk to let children cross. The peace of quiet walks and stopping at a favourite store and getting some food. The way all my neighbours wave and chat.

Since the October 7th Hamas attack against Israel, we are hearing more and more about Canadians being shouted at on the subway by mobs, shootings at schools and defaced places of worship. The places we shop owned by Jews and Muslims are being targeted by mobs and vandalized. Many Canadians are frightened by how the peace and order of everyday life has been shattered by violence and disorder.

People are saying that they simply aren’t safe anymore and where is the legal punishment for this? 

There are three separate hatred-related offences in Canada: advocating genocide, publicly inciting hatred, and willfully promoting hatred.

For all three offences, there is no minimum punishment. Imprisonment, probation, or fines are possible. 

However, a provision in the Criminal Code addresses crimes motivated by hatred and allows increased penalties when an offender is sentenced for any criminal offence “if there is 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 gender identity or expression.” So theoretically, these crimes should carry harsher punishments. 

Interestingly, and applicable to today’s crises, “In 2009, the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism was established by major federal political parties to investigate and combat antisemitism - particularly what is referred to as the new antisemitism. It is argued that this form of hate targets Israel, consisting of and fed by allegations of Israeli "war crimes" and similar claims. Anti-Israel actions that led to the formation of a Parliamentary Coalition included boycott campaigns on university campuses and in some churches, spilling over into attacks on synagogues, Jewish institutions and individuals.”

So, how is this playing out? Police forces are asking people to come forward and report, and many are increasing the officers dedicated to hate crimes. In Toronto, Chief Myron Demkiw said there has been a "staggering" increase in hate crimes since the Hamas October seventh attack,  most of the hate crimes - 40% of them - are antisemitic hate crimes and “the force's hate crime unit has been expanded from a team of six to 32. And that since Oct. 7th, the unit has made 22 arrests and laid 58 charges.” This type of communication with the public, encouraging reporting as well as communicating that arrests and charges have occurred, goes a long way to making people feel safer and it needs to be communicated more. 

Perhaps part of the problem is that many hate crimes are shared on social media but without follow-up, so there appears to be no accountability. A widely shared video showed an Indigo store with posters and red paint, the posters depicting an image of the company’s Jewish CEO Heather Reisman and accusing her of “Funding Genocide.” There were, however, consequences for those involved. So far, eleven people have been arrested, charged and the investigation remains open. We have yet to hear what their punishment will be and if there will be jail time.

This dramatic rise in hate motivated crime is testing our laws, our police response, legal system and things may have to change to meet the challenge. We haven’t seen this level of hate crimes before and just like police forces are adding officers trained to deal with hate crimes, perhaps we need to finally ask if our legal system can properly charge those involved? Will the punishment serve as a deterrent to others who might want to embark on similar hate crimes? Will the police response to arrest people be swift enough to make people feel safe or are more tools needed?  Do we need strict minimum sentences to serve as a future deterrent? 

I don’t know the answer to any of these questions – just a fan of peace, order and good government who is very worried.

08 October 2023

On Our Streets


We have a rise in hate crimes in Ottawa which, while being the capital city of Canada, has always felt like a quiet place.

With a 23.5 per cent increase in hate incidents in 2023, Ottawa Police Chief Eric Stubbs said, “Across North America and really the world, we’ve seen this trend of hate crimes on the rise.” One of the targeted groups was the LGBTQ community.

This gave me pause because many of us have been talking amongst ourselves about the shocking changes we are seeing. Canada has had a history of supporting LGBTQ rights by decriminalizing being gay as early as 1969, legalizing same sex adoption in 1995, legalizing same sex marriage in 2005 and making LGBTQ discrimination illegal in 2017.

Recently, however, in Canada we’ve had marches called, “Leave our kids alone”. Under the guise of protecting children against learning too much about sex, they actually want them to learn nothing good about the LGBTQ community. So, in reality, we had anti-LGBTQ marches on our streets. Some of the hateful things said left many of us reeling. 

What is also worrisome was the fact that they went to great lengths to look like a bunch of concerned parents, organizing organically at the local level. However, in reality they were supported by a big tent of far-right groups aligned with groups holding these “Leave our kids alone” marches in the United States.

In typical Canadian fashion, many people came to show strong support for the LGBTQ community as well. What was heartwarming about the support was most of it was from neighbours, friends and family of people who happen to be LGBTQ simply saying to them: we know you, respect you, care for you and will stand up for you. 

But make no mistake, this has shaken us. Canada has always been a tolerant country, largely insulated from the far right hateful shouting elsewhere. To have these same slogans – at times screamed out by children – was horrifyingly unCanadian. Many I spoke with were tearful at the thought of LGBTQ children hearing this vileness in a country where many had worked so hard to make them feel respected. For LGBTQ adults who had seen grimmer days of intolerance recede and lived in hope one day it would be gone, this rise of hate is disheartening. 

Ottawa Police Chief Eric Stubbs talked about the hate seeping in from our southern neighbours, but some is homegrown or brought in from people who now call Canada home, but were raised in a hateful environment elsewhere.  It was a warning to us that we are not immune. It is literally on the street where we live. 

What is uniquely Canadian is a history of calm and civility. Americans sometimes make fun of the ‘nice’ Canadian, suggesting we are prone to naivet√© and cluelessness. They misunderstand. It’s actually a steely determination not to get caught up in anger and drama but to choose, instead, to chat with people as we meet them. It’s not soft. Nothing is stronger, more adult, than refusing to engage in childish shouting, drama and anger -  this is the fodder for extremism and hate. These are the things we have tried to have a steely resolve to avoid. That’s the backbone of who we are and I hope, the civility will once again win. We have always had intolerance within our borders and knocking on the doors of our borders. We conquered it with civility.

My parents came to Canada when brown-skinned people were few and far between, particularly in small town Waterloo. Many, who had never met anyone who looked like my parents, chose to chat as they met in the neighbourhood and, more often than not, extend an invitation for coffee. At school, children hung out on the playground, invited me to their homes and some became lifelong friends. This is why civility is highly underrated. It allows everyone to meet and talk.

What we saw on these marches was the antithesis of civility. 

The far right extremism may seem big, well-funded and so loud that they will drown us. We must fight them in big ways - online, through enforcing hate laws, increasing rules in workplaces - but one way to drown them out is to chat. Quietly. In a friendly way. Being the quintessential nice Canadian, with a spine of steel, who is civil to anyone we meet on our streets. 

Those of you who have read some of my previous articles know that I strongly champion empathy in all its forms.  To the shouty and the angry, to the political and crass, I may seem like a naive fluffy person. In response to that caricature, I would like to tout my credentials - after much more than a quarter of a century of studying and clinically practicing in the area of mental health as a physican -  what allows for normalcy, decreases violence and prevents mental illness is my lane. I can say with utter certainty that empathy is crucial for a highly functioning person and a highly functional society. 

We need to get back to empathy and civility. On our streets. 

12 December 2021

The Perplexing Patterns of Antisemitism


My daughter and I were discussing the rise of antisemitism during the pandemic. She asked, “Why? What they’re saying makes no sense at all. And there are so few Jews, so why them?”

So, this is an article for my daughter and everyone who is simply perplexed about what antisemites are saying - because it has a history and that’s why it makes no sense, continues to exist and is dangerous. 


During the plague outbreak in 1712, Hamburg forbade Jews from the city in an attempt to stop the plague and the cholera outbreak of the 19th century in Germany was also blamed on the Jews. 

To discourage smallpox vaccines, anti-Semitic propaganda leaflets were distributed blaming them for the vaccine. 

So, there’s a long history of both blaming Jews for diseases and blaming them for measures to stop diseases. We shouldn’t focus on the obvious lack of logic: it is the hatred evoked that matters.

Dr. Gavin Yamey has written poignantly on this issue, both in articles and on twitter. He has often outlined the perplexing mix of Jews both being blamed for the pandemic and for the vaccines and lockdowns.

In Australia, IKEA was, “defaced with the hateful words, “NO JEW JAB FOR OZ”  while other “antisemitic posts are flourishing on many Australian anti-vaccine networks, including outright finger-pointing at Jews for creating and unleashing the virus.” 

Like many students of psychology, I’ve studied the antisemitism of WW II, and there is a great deal of evidence tying authoritarian parenting and societies to antisemitism. However, this pandemic teaches us a crucial fact: the history of antisemitism, in all its lack of logic, is passed down in families and to others, so these patterns evoke emotions and make sense only to a twisted mind of an antisemite. 

Which brings me to my daughter’s point, “There are so few Jews.” 

Indeed there are.

In Canada, a country that prides itself on tolerance and lack of bigotry, “Jewish Canadians are the most targeted religious group for hate crimes…those numbers are particularly troubling since the Jewish community accounts for only 1% of the population and yet are the targets of 17% of police-reported hate crime.” 

"As of 2021, the world's "core" Jewish population (those identifying as Jews above all else) was estimated at 15.2 million, or 0.19% of the 7.89 billion worldwide population.” 

So why have so few shouldered so much hatred? The answer is complicated and certainly I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that there are excellent resources on the subject that discuss family and societal factors that we should all know. 

However, these strange patterns - such as being blamed for making a disease worse and also for any measures to make it better - are history being repeated, literally. They make no sense.  However, we should all learn these patterns so we can watch for them, know them and help in any way we can. We should also explain to our children the inexplicable: how the twisted minds of antisemites have passed these patterns down through centuries to place an immense burden of hate on such a small group. 

For us, these incoherent statements merely perplex us, while to the antisemite they evoke hatred. And that hatred often translates into action. 

An annual report by Tel Aviv University's researchers on anti-Semitism shows that online antisemitism has risen, as have desecrations of Jewish cemeteries, memorials and synagogues. They also warn that, while in person hate crimes have decreased as a result of the lockdowns, there is every indication that they will increase when lockdowns are reduced. 

For children who haven’t learned these patterns and have no hatred to muster against Jews, leaving them perplexed by incoherent and strange statements by antisemites isn’t enough. We should explain the history of these patterns and that, when they reemerge, it harkens a dangerous time for Jews. Our children need to know that and do everything they can to help, because when we are long gone, that will be their job.

09 August 2020

Nipping it in the bud because old men cry.



In February, an elderly man was collecting recyclables in San Francisco when another man threatened him and taunted him. A video shows the elderly man crying while onlookers laugh at him. 

In March, a man yelled at an elderly man suffering from dementia in a convenience store in Vancouver. Then the elderly man was shoved by the other man, he fell and hit his head. 

Both of the elderly men attacked were of Asian descent and, in each case, the men attacking them hurled racist remarks at them. Both of these elderly and innocent men were victims of the heinous crime that’s on the rise: hate crime. 

In the United States and Canada, hate crimes are increasing  Although the number of hate crimes in Canada remain lower than in the United States, we don’t know the actual numbers in either country: hate crimes remain underreported in both countries and, because hate crimes are defined differently in various regions of each country, counting cases accurately is difficult.

Crimes of hate thrive and grow in times of intolerance and certainly we are living through difficult times. Many of the attacks against those of Asian heritage are accompanied by accusations of somehow being blamed for COVID-19 infections. 

Social media is one of the main vehicles that transports racism through society and fuels hate crimes. One tool Canada has to fight this is illustrated by the conviction of James Sears. 

In Aug 2019, the Canadian editor, James Sears, was sentenced to one year in jail for “wilful promotion of hatred against women and Jews..[the judge] lamented the fact that he couldn’t give Sears 18 months, saying the circumstances were more severe than a 1990 case where a 22-year-old self-described racist received a year in jail for antisemitic graffiti including spray painting swastikas on a Toronto synagogue.” 

Canadian hate laws do limit free expression. David Butt has an elegant discussion of this:


“Does freedom of expression as legally defined in Canada provide the right tools for expression challenges in a fragmented and largely angry 21st century social media world?
Canadian freedom of expression law, like so many things Canadian, embodies compromise… our constitution protects not only free expression, but multiculturalism and equality as well. So to read the constitution holistically, we cannot permit one protected freedom to undermine other rights and freedoms enjoying equal status."

As we all traverse this world of social media and the spread of hate based on race, religion and sexual orientation, it remains an open question whether Canada’s compromise of balancing the right to freedom of speech with other rights, will curtail hate crimes. I won’t dwell on the legal problems of enforcing the laws Canada has, the limit of those laws and the complications of all this. Why?

What I will do is join the many voices condemning hate crimes. There can be no civil society when old men are humiliated to the point of tears and then are simply laughed at, when people are spit on, beaten and humiliated simply for their race, religion or who they love. The internet has become a place to spread hate in dark corners that radiate out to infect us all. 

We can prosecute hate crimes after they happen, but we must find ways to stop the propagation of hate in the first place. Some social media platforms are trying to manage hate speech online. However, curbing hate crimes with laws or even regulations on social media may feel like a Sisyphean task and many have asked why bother because the problem is too large? Others ask why do this and curb free speech?

I ask - would we say this about any other crime? Would we say there are too many murders, so why bother trying to stop them? Would we say that trying to stop physical assault may lead us to also stop holding hands and hugging? Surely, we can distinguish racist or homophobic rants from gardening advice. Again, I'm not a lawyer and know that these issues can be very difficult. However, as a physician, I can tell you that treating head injuries in an old man thrown to the ground can also be difficult - but you would be hard pressed to find a doctor who walked away from that task. 

So, it's time we found solutions to hate crimes and the first step is to take them seriously enough to come up with solutions.

15 November 2016

Hate Crimes in Canada, Eh



I was supposed to work on my novel on Wednesday. Instead, I found myself on Facebook, looking for wisdom and solace. Most of my friends are either writers, health care workers, or both. I did find comfort in them. But I was also shocked by my newsfeed.
Peterborough is a small city of about 80,000 people and home to Trent University. After I graduated from my program in emergency medicine, I did my first locum in an even smaller town close to Peterborough. Beautiful area, green, lots of smiling people. Almost all white people, but that's the norm in a small Canadian town. Usually, rural-ites are friendly. Not always. In my life, no one has flung urine at me.
Although once, a teenager ran up to my dad in Ottawa with a plastic bag clenched in his hands and said, "Are you Japanese?"
I was maybe twelve and didn't know what to do.
My dad said, truthfully, no.
The guy ran away with his bag, which seemed to contain some sort of brown liquid.
Close call.



This is not isolated to Peterborough. Basically, I'm astonished that some people think they have new and wide permission to spew hate.
It was always simmering. When I took my kids trick-or-treating in Vankleek Hill a few weeks ago, a little girl on Main Street stared at me and starting singing, "I see your Chinese eyes" and more under her breath. I looked at her mother, who was staring blankly into space, and back at the girl, who kept singing. I thought, Do I confront the girl? Do I point this out to her mother?
My kids were tired, and we were heading back to our car, so I opted to glare at the girl and keep going.
Afterward, I mentioned it to my white husband. He hadn't even noticed. He laughed and said, "You like to glare."
Actually, what I like to do is trick-or-treat without racist commentary. Wouldn't that be nice?
If you think none of this is real, or it's exaggerated, or it doesn't matter because no one was beaten or died, you may enjoy reading this report on hate crimes in Canada in 2013: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-002-x/2015001/article/14191-eng.htm#a2
It has nice charts like this:


I can't not speak.
I respect other Sleuthsayers' right not to engage, but in my mind, there is no point writing about crime fiction and ignoring crimes in real time.
Let me end with some wise words from Dr. Dylan Blacquiere, a neurologist, writer, and friend. I have edited his brilliance for brevity, but you should seek him out:

1. We have to, have to, have to get our own house in order. That could mean engaging with civic politics, writing letters, joining community organizations, running for office yourself. Our institutions are only as strong as the people who participate, and the best way to keep someone like Trump from destroying what we build here is to make sure that we participate fully to strengthen what we have. Clinton lost on turnout. People were not engaged. That means we have to engage. 
2. We have to pay attention to why this happened. Most of his voters are not racists or sexists or stupid. Some of them are, no doubt. But many are people for whom the system is not working, and they saw nothing to lose. That means we have to face these issues head on. Economic inequality. Poverty. Unemployment. Economic uncertainty. Trump's message wins when people are disenfranchised, vulnerable, and uncertain. If our economy is working for everyone in a fairly distributed manner, then a lot of the power of his argument goes away. And ignoring these people, dismissing them, not understanding where they are coming from, not seeing their experiences and not declaring them important, means that they will find some other way to make themselves heard. It's hard to blame them for that; we haven't always been that great at taking their concerns seriously.
3. More than ever we have to stand up and support the vulnerable and stand up for equality. Women, people of colour, LGBT, people with disabilities, immigrants. We have to support our allies and friends in the States who are in a vulnerable and scary place right now. We have to make sure rights and freedoms don't get rolled back here as politicians like Kellie Leitch start rising. 
4. And we have to face some uncomfortable truths - we aren't perfect here, either. Racism exists here. Our relationships with First Nations, especially here, are fraught with broken promises, inequality, and disrespect. Those 
comments that Trump supporters make; Canadians make those too, about women, about natives, about black people and queer people and Muslims and Jews. Many of our institutions have been built on past inequality and oppression. Part of standing against Trump means we have to face up to that and make those things better here. We absolutely do not get to rest on our laurels here; in fact, we have to recognize the fact that in a lot of ways we've done, and are doing just as badly. We need to fix that. If we truly want to stand for something good in a scared and uncertain world it means we have to improve ourselves, too, not just wag a finger at others. 
Bottom line: There's a lot we can't do about this. It's frustrating and it's discouraging and it's depressing. But the sun still came up yesterday. It's going to come up today, and tomorrow, too. There's work to be done. Canada has the chance to be the light the world leaves on for when places like the States and Great Britain come around and come back home. We have to seize that chance by strengthening ourselves, staying involved, and helping to fix the problems that led here and the ones
that will worsen because we're here. 
I spent yesterday numb and avoidant. I plan to spend today roiling up my sleeves and getting to work.