REGINA – Flags were lowered to half mast outside the Regina Police Service Tuesday to honour an officer killed on duty in Edmonton.
The suspect in the shooting was the subject of a lengthy hate crimes investigation involving the extensive online bullying of an Alberta family.
According to the latest numbers from Statistics Canada, hate crimes are actually on the decline across the country, but what’s reported to police doesn’t always encompass all incidents.
Ken Montgomery teaches anti-racism education at the University of Regina and said that’s especially true for online attacks.
“Much of what we see online is far from subtle. It’s overt,” he explained. “It’s that very troublesome criminal expression of hatred, so I think the internet has changed the game in that respect.”
By definition hate crimes are motivated by bias or prejudice based on things like race, religion and sexual orientation.
The latest report from Statistics Canada shows in 2013, Regina had the highest number of reported hate crimes in the province, with six incidents.
Those were the cases reported to police or fit the criteria of a hate crime. According to Elizabeth Popowich with the Regina Police Service, the higher number doesn’t necessarily reflect a greater intolerance in the community.
“In some ways if you look at it, you could say if you have a higher number of incidents then it may reflect a higher level of trust in the community,” she explained. “It’s also reflected by demographics and outreach and trust relationships.”
However, Bob Hughes with the Saskatchewan Coalition Against Racism disagrees. He says they likely hear about more cases of racism and discrimination than police.
“Not many days go by that we don’t have many people contact us,” he added.
Regardless of numbers, Montgomery said the focus should be on the root causes.
“Hate crimes should be taken seriously, but really are an overt manifestation of a larger problem of social oppression more generally,” he said.
There have been no reported hate crimes to Regina Police so far this year.