Hate crime investigations doubled across Niagara Region in 2021

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Published April 27, 2022 at 10:59 am

Niagara Regional Police have reported a more than doubling of hate crime investigations across the community with 21 incidents last year from graffitied racial slurs and swastikas to assault.

NRPS reported the details of these events to the Niagara Region Police board April 25 as required under regional bylaws. The annual list contained those 21 incidents, well above last year’s total of 10.

“Hate/Bias Motivated Crimes and Hate Propaganda offences have an impact beyond the physical and emotional trauma to the victim. The victim’s cultural, ethnic, religious or lifestyle group, and the community, can also be affected,” reads the report.

A strong [police] Service and community response to this type of crime will show the perpetrators their actions will not be tolerated,” police said.

When a hate crime occurs NRPS dedicates a Hate Crime Coordinator, working in the Criminal Intelligence Unit. They’re job is to monitor the investigation, stepping in when necessary. The Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Unit also monitors the situation and helps the public to “ensure the proper information and concerns are being addressed.”

The process continues even after an arrest. The Ministry of the Attorney General has a variety of supports to aid victims through a Victim/Witness Coordinator who liaises with the Crown Attorney, police, victims, and witnesses throughout the investigation.

Of the 21 hate-related investigations, all but one were considered hate incidents. The other was designated as a hate crime as it met the criminal code criteria since investigation could prove a hateful motivation. Police laid the hate crime charge for an online threat and harassment campaign of racialized comments repeatedly targeting an identified group.

The first incident occurred February 6 when a swastika was scratched into a door of a Port Colborne condo complex. Next on February 22, a hate crime charge was laid in St. Catharines after threats were issued toward a Black community organization.

Spring brought yet more incidents with a pro-segregation sign posted on a St. Catharines church door on March 18 and racial slurs were spray-painted on public property in Niagara Falls March 30.

On May 31 a person of South-Asian descent was assaulted in Niagara Falls and assailed with racial slurs.

Investigation rates peaked during LGBT Pride Month of June with six anti-LGBT incidents in Lincoln, St. Catharines and Welland.

  • June 6 – Lincoln: A pride flag is ripped off a business.
  • June 12 – St. Catharines: A pride sidewalk was damaged by burnouts leaving tire marks.
  • June 17 – Welland: Eggs and a rock are thrown at a window with a hateful note written on it.
  • June 24- St. Catharines: A swastika was painted on a pride flag.
  • June 26 – St. Catharines: A threat to burn a pride flag, laced with racial slurs, is voiced toward private property.
  • June 27 – St. Catharines: A pride flag is stolen.

Meanwhile, two other incidents occurred that month. Islamophobic slurs were delivered over the phone to a person in Niagara Falls on June 8. Anti-Black slurs were uttered in St. Catharines on June 10 and, along with threats, in Niagara Falls on June 11.

Incidents continued throughout the summer with anti-Italian slur painted on private property in Niagara Falls on July 16 and a swastika was drawn on private property in St. Catharines on August 22.

September was quiet with no investigations. However two more occured in October. An anti-LGBT motivated assault occurred in Lincoln October 7, after which the victim was assailed with racial slurs. Then in Fort Erie a person was sexually assaulted followed by racial slurs by a young offender on October 29.

On November 28 property was damaged in another anti-LGBT incident. December saw two more graffiti incidents after an anti-Semitic remark was scrawled on a St. Catharines dumpster December 1. A swastika and an anti-Semitic slur were written on a school bus window December 8.

Over all these incidents resulted in 15 charges. However only the February 22 incident met the criteria for a hate crime designation as the in others, “the motivation for the accused individual to commit the offence was not, or could not be, proven to be as a result of hatred or bias toward the identifiable group,” per the NRPS report.

The sheer number of investigations in 2021 dwarf previous years. There were 11 reported incidents in 2019, resulting in no criminal hate charges, while 2020 saw 10 investigations and one criminal hate charge.

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