Any criminal offence committed against a person or property which is motivated by hate, bias or prejudice can be deemed a hate crime at the time of sentencing. However, with the exception of hate propaganda, police cannot lay specific hate crime charges. If hate or bias motivation is proven at trial, it will result in an increased sentence. It is extremely important that you report to police any evidence of hate that you saw or heard when the offence was committed (for example, racist, homophobic, or anti-Semitic language being used during an assault). This will enable police to thoroughly investigate all aspects of the offence and present this evidence to the prosecution.
Hate crimes tend to be more violent than other crimes and are often committed with the intention of scaring an entire community. They increase feelings of vulnerability, victimization and fear for everyone. They are particularly horrible because they often occur in places where you feel safest: at home, school or religious institutions. Left unchallenged, hate crimes can easily lead to copycat incidents. For all of these reasons, Canadian law provides for an increased penalty at sentencing.
Incidents such as workplace or school harassment, refusal of service or protection because of who you are may not be formally considered a crime, but they are very serious – you shouldn’t ignore them. Human rights commissions and school or work policies can help stop bullying before the police need to get involved. And remember, police don’t just arrest people. They can help prevent hateful behaviour from escalating to criminal activity by intervening and offering information and support. Establishing a record of hateful behaviours can also make it easier to prove intent should this become necessary.
Check out these activities for challenging hate in your school and community: http://www.mygsa.ca/meeting-event-ideas/activities