Transgender people still not counted in Canada’s hate crimes data

People protest outside the North Carolina Executive Mansion in Raleigh, N.C., Thursday, March 24, 2016. North Carolina legislators decided to rein in local governments by approving a bill Wednesday that prevents cities and counties from passing their own anti-discrimination rules. AP Photo/Emery P. Dalesio

As significant as what’s in Canada’s hate crime statistics is what they don’t include.

We have no data on crimes targeting transgender people. And we won’t have any for the foreseeable future: The Senate effectively killed a bill last year that would have added gender identity both to Canada’s Criminal Code and the Human Rights Act.

“It’s hugely significant,” said Ryan Dyck, director of research policy and development with rights advocacy group Egale.

IN DEPTH: The fight for trans rights

Listing gender identity in the Criminal Code would explicitly recognize violence against trans people as a hate crime that needs to be policed, prosecuted and monitored.

“We know trans people are one of the most targeted groups. And they experience violence at a much higher rate than other people.

“But because we don’t collect data, we don’t collect information on these circumstances, it makes it difficult to put in place any programming or training for police or communities that address these crimes.”

Story continues below advertisement

The trans rights bill that died last year had been the culmination of a decade of advocacy.

NDP MP Randall Garrison has tabled it again as a private member’s bill, Dyck said, and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould’s mandate letter includes the instruction “to add gender identity as a prohibited ground for discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act, and to the list of distinguishing characteristics of “identifiable group” protected by the hate speech provisions of the Criminal Code.”

Surveys by Egale and others have found almost half of trans high school students in Ontario have been sexually harassed in the past year; one in five trans Ontarians has been sexually or physically assaulted because they’re trans.

But if those attacks are motivated by hatred when they happen, that’s not how the courts see them.

“In the history of Canada’s hate crime sentencing provisions, enacted in 1996, there is no apparent evidence of a case in which the provisions have been applied to a hate crime based on gender identity, even where such evidence has been presented to the court and recorded in the ruling,” an Egale document reads.

Transgender people still not counted in Canada’s hate crimes data - image
Transgender people still not counted in Canada’s hate crimes data - image

There were fewer police-reported crimes in 2014 targeting people because of their sexual orientation — 155 compared to 185 in 2012 — but that remains one of the top reasons for your being attacked in Canada because of who you are.

Story continues below advertisement

“It’s really hard to say if this is a fluctuation in reporting and awareness, or if this is an actual reduction in incidents,” Dyck said.

The inclination to report could be at play in the rates of hate crimes targeting sexual orientation across Canada: Northwest Territories reported the highest rate in 2014, followed by British Columbia, which has traditionally had a vibrant LGBTQ community that may be both more visible and more likely to report these incidents.

Transgender people still not counted in Canada’s hate crimes data - image

Anti-LGBTQ legislation in Mississippi and North Carolina can both fuel similar sentiment in Canada and draw attention to discrimination that tends not to be top of mind for Canadians, Dyck said.

“It highlights that this is still an issue and we can’t be complacent,” he said.

“There are still communities very close to home where rights are being taken away.”

Story continues below advertisement

Sponsored content