Changes made to B.C. hate crime policy amid recent rise of acts of hate

Click to play video: 'B.C. updates hate crime policies'
B.C. updates hate crime policies
The B.C. government is updating its hate crime policies, further defining what constitutes a hate crime. But as Rumina Daya reports, one lawyer says it's all already covered under the Criminal Code of Canada – Feb 16, 2024

Amid a recent rise in hate-related crimes around the province, the BC Prosecution Service has announced revisions made to its hate crime policy.

On Friday, the service announced changes to its policy as it acknowledges the harm caused by hate crimes to victims, communities, and society is “significant.”

Click to play video: 'Israel-Hamas war tensions increased hate crimes and protests in 2023, VPD says'
Israel-Hamas war tensions increased hate crimes and protests in 2023, VPD says

The changes include more definitions about what can be determined a hate crime.

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The BC Prosecution Service policy now has more defining terms to include any of the following prohibited acts:

  • Hate propaganda offences: advocating or promoting genocide, public incitement of hatred, wilful promotion of hatred, and wilful promotion of antisemitism
  • Conversion therapy offences
  • Mischief to property of an identifiable group motivated by bias, prejudice, or hate
  • Any Criminal Code offence motivated by bias, prejudice, or hate based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or on any other similar factor

There is also specific advice about five new Criminal Code hate crime offences (wilful promotion of antisemitism and four conversion therapy offences) and specific guidance for hate crimes targeting Indigenous victims and Indigenous communities.

Click to play video: 'B.C. government takes steps to address hate crimes and victims'
B.C. government takes steps to address hate crimes and victims

Last month in January, Vancouver police said the number of hate crimes soared in Vancouver in 2023.

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According to the Vancouver Police Department, officers investigated 265 hate crime reports in 2023 — up 31 per cent from 2022 — with increased reporting from the Jewish, LGBTQ+ and South Asian communities.

Antisemitism reports to Vancouver police also went up 62 per cent, with 33 of 47 incidents occurring after Hamas launched its attack on Israel on Oct. 7.

In October, B.C. Premier David Eby had strong words regarding the recent increase of acts of hate within the province. He said the province has experienced unacceptable acts of antisemitism and other attacks on religions and ethnicities.

“I am hearing directly about acts of antisemitism from people here in our province, including the vile vandalism of a rabbi’s home and two Jewish women threatened with violence following a peaceful rally. The Jewish community in B.C. is facing more hatred and discrimination than it has in a generation,” Eby said in a written statement.

“I have learned that two Muslim women, who have chosen not to be named, were recently attacked in Vancouver and I am hearing reports of a significant increase in hate incidents from Muslim organizations.”

Click to play video: 'Victim of Vancouver hate crime speaks to Global News'
Victim of Vancouver hate crime speaks to Global News

Eby said he is worried about the recent increase in anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, as well.

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“Recently, we have also seen a worrying increase in anti-2SLGBTQIA+ rhetoric here in B.C. that directly correlates to the targeting of gay and trans communities in the United States,” Eby said.

“We should always remember that hateful words too often precede violent acts. There is no place for bigotry here. There is no place for racism here. There is no place for Islamophobia or anti-Palestinian hate here. There is no place for antisemitism or anti-Israeli hate here.”

The B.C. government introduced a pair of new initiatives in November, aimed at combatting the rising tide of hate and racism.

Eby announced a new fund for groups targeted by hatred, along with plans for a new racist incident help line, due to be up and running next spring. The new anti-hate community support fund will provide grants of up to $10,000 for places of worship, cultural community centres and at-risk groups like the LGBTQ2 community for security equipment, graffiti removal and repairs to damage related to hate-motivated crimes.

The program will be funded through B.C.’s Civil Forfeiture Grant Program, which redirects money seized from organized crime.

— With files from Elizabeth McSheffrey

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