TORONTO: Three-quarters of hate crimes against the lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) community in Canada are violent. This sickening reality was magnified today with the release by Statistics Canada of the 2009 analysis of police-reported hate crimes in Canada. Sadly, this report reaffirms the disturbing trend in violent hate crimes against LGB Canadians, with 63% of hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation resulting in physical injury to the victim—far more than any other identifiable group. Notably, the absence of legal protections on the basis of gender identity and expression means the report gives no indication of the level and severity of hate crimes against trans Canadians.
These numbers stress the need for amplified education, training and prevention initiatives explicitly targeting homophobia and transphobia in our schools and communities. “It is clear that hate crime in Canada is a youth phenomenon,” said Helen Kennedy, Executive Director of Egale Canada. “When youth ages 12 to 17 represent the highest volume of both victims and those accused of hate crimes, it is impossible to deny the urgent need for comprehensive anti-homophobia and anti-transphobia measures in every school in Canada.”
Unfortunately, there is little that is surprising about this report. Egale’s recent survey, Every Class in Every School, revealed that two-thirds of LGBT students feel unsafe in their school communities. Over half of LGBT students have been verbally harassed, and 21% have been physically harassed or assaulted about their sexual orientation.
The silver lining in Statistics Canada’s report is the suggestion that the 42% increase in police-reported hate crimes is in part due to an increased willingness of victims to report crimes that would otherwise have passed out of sight. This indicates that programs such as Report Homophobic Violence, Period (RHVP)—a joint education, training and crime-prevention initiative of the Toronto Police Service and Egale Canada—are making a difference. Slowly, the silence that has shielded perpetrators of violence against the LGBT community in the past is slipping away.
At a time when suicide rates among LGBT youth are far higher than any other demographic, this report must be a wake-up call for concrete action to combat homophobia and transphobia in all schools and communities throughout the country.