Fraser Valley’s hate crimes likely ‘grossly underreported’

18 hate crimes were reported in the Fraser Valley last year, but it's possible many more have gone unreported

By Grace Kennedy | August 31, 2021 |6:40 am

A dozen hate crimes were reported to Abbotsford police last year and, further east, six hate crimes were reported to the RCMP’s Upper Fraser Valley Regional Detachment. And a Simon Fraser University professor suggests many more likely went unreported.

Of the dozen reported hate crimes in Abbotsford in 2020, three were confirmed as hate crimes, while nine were suspected of being motivated by hate. The Abbotsford figures were provided to The Current by the Abbotsford Police Department, while the numbers for the UFVRD— which covers the region between Chilliwack and Boston Bar—were included in a report to Chilliwack council this spring.

Officially, hate crimes are offences primarily motivated by hate, bias, or prejudice—particularly against a person’s race, religion, or sexual identity. (A suspected hate crime is an offence where there is a reasonable suspicion that it was motivated by hate, but police can’t prove it was solely motivated by hate.)

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Across Canada, hate crimes rose 37% from 2019 to 2020, with nearly 2,700 incidents reported to police. That meant 2020 had the largest number of reported hate crimes since data first started being collected in 2009. In 2019, Abbotsford reported 12 hate crimes—the same as in 2020, although more were confirmed hate crimes. The UFVRD had four reported hate crimes in 2019.

Many researchers have pointed to the COVID-19 pandemic as a catalyst for more race-based aggressions.

Hate-fueled crime exists here, as elsewhere, the numbers show. But it is hard to draw many deeper conclusions. SFU criminologist and Fraser Valley resident Robert Gordon said hate crimes are “grossly underreported.” He said there’s no way to know how many hate crimes have happened but gone unreported, which is the biggest challenge when looking at hate crime statistics.

“We don’t know exactly how underreported they are,” he said. That is, in part, because media coverage can inspire people to report racial abuse that they might otherwise have not reported.

What is known is that many people who are visible minorities have reported that things have gotten worse recently. In 2020, there were multiple high profile incidents of Asian residents being targeted with racist slurs or physical assaults. And a crowd-sourced survey from Statistics Canada showed one in five people in a visible minority group felt harassment had increased since the start of COVID— meaning there is likely more than just reporting behind the country-wide increase.

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Canada-wide statistics back this up, showing a marked increase in the proportion of hate crimes that are based on race (rather than religion, gender identity, or other reasons). Since 2016, race-based offences have made up just under half of all hate crimes; in 2020, that number increased to nearly 60%. The Current requested a breakdown of the Abbotsford Police Department’s hate crimes for the last three years by motivation, but did not receive those numbers.

BC’s Human Rights Commissioner has announced it will launch a public inquiry into the surge of hate crimes in the province since early 2020. The year-long inquiry will focus on all hate crimes, not just those motivated by race, and will make recommendations for changes in the province.

Grace Kennedy

Reporter at Fraser Valley Current

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