Montreal city council has adopted a motion to add more resources to the city’s police (SPVM) hate crimes unit.
“We believe that this motion will, by being adopted last night, lead to some concrete measures and concrete change so that we can fight hate crimes more effectively,” said Fo Niemi, executive director of the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR).
The CRARR is part of a coalition of community groups pushing for change in the hates crimes unit.
Created in 2016, the SPVM’s hate crimes unit currently operates with five people: three detectives and two specialized agents, according to Montreal Police.
The motion calls for adding more staff to the squad with a focus on officers from diverse backgrounds and those who speak different languages.
“Part of that is to enable the police department to do better outreach to those communities,” explained Niemi.
The measures also include collecting more data on the city’s hate crimes and publishing information for victims in different languages.
“I’m very happy,” said Minda Mazzone, president of the Federation of Filipino Canadian Associations of Quebec, also part of the coalition. “I would say in baseball it’s first base, second base maybe. At least we see there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”
The motion was first introduced to city council last March but was rejected. It passed on Tuesday after several amendments.
“What was adopted was better than nothing at all, it wasn’t my initial text,” said councillor Marvin Rotrand who worked with the coalition to bring the motion forward. “In essence, I think an important message has been sent that the city is going to get cracking on finding a better way to respond to hate.”
This comes after a wave of hate crimes in the city, including on Jan. 13, when a man was arrested after he defaced a Westmount synagogue with a swastika.
On April 5, a man shot at a mosque in Montreal’s east end.
Two weeks ago, a man was arrested after a woman of Chinese descent was harassed by a man inside the metro.
“It’s urgent because with the pandemic, coming from Asia, they think we brought the virus to Canada or around the world,” explained Mazzone.
According to numbers shared by the SPVM in March, hate crimes and incidents against people of Asian descent went up five-fold in 2020.
The SPVM told Global News they couldn’t share numbers on how many hate crimes they have recorded so far this year.
A spokesperson for the force said it has taken several measures during the pandemic to increase presence in certain areas, including Chinatown as a preventative measure. “But also to encourage any potential victim to denounce these unacceptable events.”
The SPVM says it has also produced and distributed pamphlets officers have translated into several languages as well as going door-to-door.
The SPVM says it’s too early to comment on the specifics of the motion but they welcome it openly.
The SPVM encourages anyone who is a victim of a hate crime to call 911 or to file a complaint online.