An Exploration of the Needs of Victims of Hate Crimes

5. Discussion and Summary

5. Discussion and Summary

This discussion is framed by the literature and statistical reports reviewed in Section 3, the responses from the jurisdictions in Section 4, and from two scheduled conversations with members of the Ontario Working Group, first in March and then June of 2006. Given the similarities between the mandate of the Working Group and the modest objectives of this project, efforts were made to share information and to not duplicate efforts.

5.1 Victims of Hate Crimes – Their Needs

There are numerous initiatives and organizations in Canada today that are actively working to raise awareness on these issues with the objective of combating hate-motivated crimes. The research that has been reviewed for this report was conducted for the most part with identifiable groups, e.g. with gays and lesbians, with Jews, with Afro-Americans. While specific groups may have specific needs when targeted by hate crimes, this discussion encompasses the needs of all victims of hate crimes. Next steps in three key areas - research, training and education, services – will be explored. Given the overlap between training and education and services, these two areas have been combined. All are intended to support further work in policy development for victims of hate crimes in Canada.

To better understand the needs of victims of hate crimes and the rationale for the suggested next steps, this discussion will begin by referring again to the legal context for combating hate crime in Canada. Caselaw in Canada has acknowledged the intense emotions implicit in hate crimes. In the case of R. v. Keegstra, the Supreme Court of Canada has defined "hatred" as:

… emotion of an intense and extreme nature that is clearly associated with vilification and detestation. Hatred against identifiable groups thrives on insensitivity, bigotry and destruction of both the target group and of the values of our society. Hatred is an emotion that, if exercised against members of an identifiable group, implies that those individuals are to be despised, scorned, denied respect and made subject to ill-treatment on the basis of group affiliation. R. v. Keegstra [1990] 3 S.C.R. 697 at 777

There have been numerous calls from community groups active in anti-racism advocacy for amendments to Canada’s Criminal Code. From a victim’s perspective, there are several aspects of the legislation that bear further scrutiny because of the specific nature of hate crimes. While the use of hate crime legislation remains important, both as a practical tool and a symbolic one, there are limitations of the law. Field (2001) provides a summary of concerns/limitations found in the literature and advocated by groups. They include (cited directly from Field 2001, 36-39):

Practical arguments

Ideological arguments

Groups have also made arguments to amend the specific provisions in the Criminal Code including (cited directly from Field 2001, 98):

Along with a consistent definition, creating a new crime or crimes of hate-motivated violence, groups have called for new provisions that would update the Criminal Code to penalize Internet hate crimes and the use of new technologies to promote hatred.

In response to some of these concerns, initiatives have begun and demonstrate the importance of long-term and multi-faceted approaches to the issues. One example is the data collection project that is currently being undertaken by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics and funded by Heritage Canada through Canada’s Action Plan Against Racism. Canada’s data collection pilot survey on hate crimes and the current initiative have been recognized as a superior model by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

The pilot survey, which collected data from 12 police forces, the 1999 General Social Survey on Criminal Victimization, and the Ethnic Diversity Survey clearly demonstrated the gaps in reporting and recording at the police level. As a result, after significant consultations with community groups and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, a common definition of hate crime was agreed upon:

Hate crime is a criminal violation motivated by hate, based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation or any other similar factor.
- UCR 2.2 Definition

This definition includes the same factors as Criminal Code s.718.2(a)(i) for sentencing purposes.

Working with an agreed-upon definition is itself an important step forward. This particular initiative takes several more steps forward as it involves training police to recognise and report these crimes, thereby improving data collection in the long term. With approximately 3,000 police forces in Canada, the training goal will be achieved in a number of ways: with regional training sessions, training trainers, and training in the police colleges. In February 2007, CCJS released hate-motivated crime data for the Ottawa and London police forces[14] and is aiming for complete data for other police forces. CCJS is also working towards an electronic version of the training package so that forces can provide on-going training and reach all officers.

What is particularly important about the training for the purposes of this report is the focus on victims. The training incorporates findings from the research on victim and community impact and uses video clips, photographs, and excerpts from newspaper articles to provide the victim’s perspective to the audience. The trainer covers areas such as: how to talk to victims, how to acknowledge their perception of the incident, and how to acknowledge the community impact. One suggestion is that this training be adapted for victim services as well and be delivered nationally.

By training officers to recognize and record comprehensively all hate crimes, Statistics Canada is working towards more accurate statistics on the prevalence and characteristics of hate crimes in Canada. By extending this level of awareness to victim services workers, similar improvements in capturing data on victims of hate crimes may also be possible. As well, there is the additional benefit of raising awareness and sensitivity in all police forces and with victim services workers about hate crimes and about victims of hate crimes. It is intended that all suggested next steps will similarly achieve more than one objective.

5.2 Further Research

At the time of writing this paper, the Ontario Hate Crimes Community Working Group was completing its mandate and cataloguing programs and services for victims of hate crimes. The work of this group will undoubtedly complement this preliminary report in terms of understanding what work is being done in Canada.

While there is certainly a body of Canadian literature on hate crimes, the review revealed very little empirical research in Canada on victims of hate crimes. With the exception of Janoff’s 2005 work, which utilizes a variety of methods to better understand hate-motivated crimes against the gay/lesbian/bi/transgendered individuals in Canada, there was little research specifically on the victims of these crimes. While work from other countries, the United States in particular, is insightful, the lack of Canadian research does not permit us to develop a core of knowledge based on Canadian experience. Changing demographics in Canada and global events will ensure that social issues with racial/religious/ethnic elements will continue to be or increasingly be in the media spotlight.

Field also made specific recommendations regarding research and data collection (2001, 42-50), many of which have already been addressed, again through the initiative of the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. In his examination of the use of s.718.2(a)(i) in sentencing cases,Roberts (2001, 20) recommended that:

Views of Victims: As noted earlier, the victim's perspective is central to the sentencing of offenders convicted of hate crimes. The enhanced sentence imposed as a result of the hate crime provision is supposed to recognize the increased harm inflicted as a result of hatred or bias. Yet we know nothing about the reaction of victims to specific sentencing decisions...

Herek (1999, 2) also made recommendations for further research that included: replicating his study in other regions of the US; replicating the study with hate crime victims from other minority groups; identifying the ways in which the mere threat of hate crime victimization affects the well-being of entire communities; and identifying ways in which services for hate crime victims can be improved through training of police, health and mental health professionals, and social service providers.

While an individual may report a hate crime to the police and be a witness in the criminal proceedings, the commission of the offence is against not only the individual, but the entire community. David Matas notes that people live in communities and as well, that rights are exercised in communities (Matas 2006). As we consider the role of research to foster awareness among the public and among criminal justice professionals, there are at least two elements in terms of victim impact to note.

The first element is the impact on the community, which Cogan argues is particularly devastating. Hate crimes are "message crimes in that the perpetrator is sending a message to the members of a certain group that they are despised, devalued, or unwelcome in a particular neighbourhood, community, school, or workplace" (Cogan 2002, 177-178). The second element is the impact on the individual victim, which may result in the rejection of "the aspect of themselves that was the target of the attack or associating a core part of their identity with fear, loss, and vulnerability" (Cogan 2002, 178).

Research on the issue of community and individual impact will be important as it would support policy and law development, particularly on the issues of community impact statements, Attorney General’s consent, and standing for community groups. The following list represents possible and proposed projects that would be intended to address some of the principal gaps in Canadian research.

5.3 Further Services, Training and Education

As noted in the literature review, Herek et al. found that "hate crime survivors have special concerns in addition to those of victims of other crimes" (Herek et al. 1999) and therefore may require additional, specialized services in addition to those that already exist for all victims of crime. Similarly, as discussed earlier in the 1989 study conducted by the National Institute Against Prejudice, now the Prejudice Institute of Baltimore, researchers found that "victims of hate-motivated violence experience 21% more of the standard psychological symptoms associated with stress than non hate crime victims" (Schaffer 1996). Herek (1999, 2) notes that:

It is reasonable to expect that victims of hate crimes based on race, ethnicity, religion, or another comparable characteristic may also experience heightened psychological distress because the incident represents a serious attack on a fundamental aspect of the victim’s personal identity.

He also noted that given the more serious impact on victims, "…it is appropriate for legislation and public policy to treat hate crimes as a special case of criminal victimization, one that requires special strategies for prevention, prosecution, and victim services." (Herek 1999, 2).

The results of the email survey of the Federal Provincial Territorial Working Group indicated that for the most part, there are no specific services for victims of hate crimes. Victims of hate crimes are able to access victim services in any jurisdiction and indeed, these excellent services will respond to the needs of these victims. Victims of hate crimes represent victims of a particular type of crime. Victims of hate crimes can benefit from the services provided by the generic victim services in each province and territory. These services provide information about the status of the investigation and court proceedings, information about the justice system and how it operates, assistance in preparing for court, emotional support and counselling, referrals to other agencies and services, and assistance in preparing victim impact statements.

What was evident from the responses from jurisdictions was that victims of hate crimes are victims of crime who may have specific needs, as do victims of sexual assault, or victims of family violence. By providing services to victims of hate crimes that address these specific needs, victim services organizations may also send a strong, positive message to the targeted individuals and their communities that they are part of a larger Canadian society that does care and can provide assistance. If victims of hate crimes are only referred to community organizations to respond to their specific identity needs (e.g. a Jewish organization, a gay/lesbian organization), they may feel that it is only within their community that they can receive the necessary support, that it is "their" problem. When a hate crime occurs, support for the victim and community must come from both the larger society, and the targeted community, and indeed, other identity communities, in order to repair the tear in the social fabric that hate crimes create. Training victim services workers – and indeed, all social service providers – to recognize the needs of victims of hate crimes may assist in providing that "special" support from general victim services.

As the jurisdictions noted, their staff are trained to respond to the needs of victims of crime. Dr. Wesley Crichlow noted in a presentation at the Fourth International Metropolis Conference (1999):

… we may neglect the ability of crime victims assistance professionals and other court counsellors to help victims of racist crime. Since most helping and counselling professionals, such as psychologists, social workers, and therapists are usually not trained to work with a multicultural and multiracial population (for instance, most social work schools in Canada have no compulsory courses on anti-racist social work and integrated anti-racism or multiculturalism in their curriculum), it is pertinent to ask whether victims of hate crime can receive adequate support from crime victims assistance programs. This is often crucial for these victims to go through the process, or to participate in the prosecution process.

Given the nature of hate crime, special attention needs to be paid to the consequences of hate crime on the so-called indirect victims, i.e. other members of the group who can be equally but silently aggrieved by the violence visited upon the direct victims of hate crime. Are crime victims assistance or compensation program managers trained to respond to hate crime? This remains an open-ended question, still.

Police, along with victim services workers, also require training. Warren Silver, Technical Officer with the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, is currently responsible for the hate crimes police training and noted (2006) that:

One of the best ways to anticipate victims’ needs is by training police in a sensitive compassionate and professional manner to address hate-motivated crimes and deal appropriately with victims and their communities.

While most victim services do not provide long-term counselling services, they are able to provide referrals for those who might benefit from additional support. While victims can access generic victim services, all jurisdictions who responded to the e-mail survey indicated that there are at least two issues:

  1. Training for staff and volunteers, and,
  2. Potential barriers to accessing the services.

This training becomes extremely important to enable victim services workers to address the findings in the research that point to special needs of victims of hate crimes.

1) Support training for victim services on a nation-wide basis

Some key elements would include:

2) Support funding proposals that aim to reduce barriers to accessing services for victims of hate crimes

These proposals might be related to all victims of crime, but special recognition should be included for victims of hate crimes. Examples might include:

  1. materials developed specifically for communities; this could include cultural translations of victim services materials; and,
  2. workshops/training/networking events to increase collaboration between community groups and victim services.

3) Support funding proposals to develop, implement and evaluate training and training materials for those who work with victims of hate crimes

Some examples of further initiatives that could be supported include:

  1. Materials that are directed toward police and prosecutors to assist them to identify the hatred aspect of these crimes and other elements particular to these cases, may be helpful, similar to the Prosecutor’s Handbook for Criminal Harassment.
  2. A pamphlet or brochure that outlines the provisions in the Criminal Code in relation to hate crimes may be a helpful tool for victim services in dealing with victims of these crimes.

There are at least two important objectives in terms of training for victim services workers and other players in the criminal justice system:

  1. Understand and acknowledge the impact of hate-motivated crimes on individual victims; and,
  2. Understand and acknowledge the impact of hate-motivated crimes on the community as a whole.

These objectives must be considered and recognized when developing and implementing training.

5.4 Summary

The discussion above provides suggestions for further research, training/education and improvements to current services through training and reducing barriers to access. The results of this literature review and survey have already been instrumental in identifying gaps in training for those who provide services to all victims. While a modest beginning, often small initiatives can have significant impacts. Each suggestion in this chapter was designed to be feasible and not require significant resources. Much more can be achieved through the combined efforts of government, academics, and communities – not just those targeted, but all communities in Canada.

Victims of racism and hate-motivated crimes need to be aware that there are more options to doing nothing. The CCJS initiative is ensuring that police are being trained to better understand the dynamics of hate crime victimization. Front-line officers are learning about victims’ fear and reluctance to report due to lack of understanding and awareness of the police, fear of being "identified", fear of reprisals, and other concerns. Victims’ sense of fear and injury can be addressed through concrete legal remedies. It is through reporting a hate-motivated activity that the avenues of legal recourse are triggered. It is also through reporting that accurate statistics can be compiled on the prevalence of such activities. Accurate information can assist learning and awareness and potentially reduce incidents of hate crimes.

Those who have been working in this area for decades may question the need for more research given their awareness of the need for concrete responses. This preliminary study has clearly shown the gaps; Canada does not have thorough research or a well developed literature on victims of hate crimes.[15] Indeed, the number of scholars working on victims of crime research in general in Canada is few. In this light, the national data collection initiative being currently undertaken by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics is extremely important. With limited resources, those working in the area will need to ensure that any initiative is strategic and collaborative. As we develop a larger body of research in this area, attention must be given to policy and research evaluations; to enhancing sensitivity among service providers; to meeting the needs of victims; and, to developing awareness among the general public. Research can contribute to these goals. The general public, policy makers, and stakeholders all need to benefit from the greater awareness that results.