Toronto city council is asking the police services board to add more resources and officers to the Toronto Police Hate Crime Unit in response to an “unprecedented” rise in incidents of hatred in the city.
Councillors passed a motion unanimously Thursday brought forward by Coun. James Pasternak and seconded by Coun. Cynthia Lai. It asks the Toronto Police Services Board to consider “investing additional personnel, technology and other resources” into the TPS Hate Crime Unit.
Citing Toronto Police Service (TPS) statistics, the motion says there was an “unprecedented increase in hate crime reporting in 2020.”
“As Toronto grows, it faces a greater challenge in following up on complaints of hate, investigating hate crimes and making sure that occurrence reports are compiled and forwarded to the Attorney General of Ontario for criminal prosecution. Crimes of hate are growing,” the motion reads..
Toronto Police reported a sharp increase in reported incidents in 2020. Although statistics for 2021 have not yet been made public, police have told CBC News that the upward trend continued last year.
Address ‘underlying causes’ of hate
“A hate crime is a criminal offence committed against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by hate, bias or prejudice against an identifiable group,” the Toronto Police website says.
“An identifiable group may be distinguished by race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression.”
Reports of anti-Asian racism have been increasing since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic after reports surfaced that the novel coronavirus had first struck Wuhan, China.
“Throughout the last year and a half, I would say almost everybody that I talked to had the experience to share,” said Amy Go, president of the Chinese Canadian National Council. “They have encountered racist attacks, from taunting all the way to physical assaults.”
Go says she is happy to see calls for the strengthening of the Hate Crimes Unit, but she wants it to be part of a holistic approach to combating racism.
“We believe that resources should be devoted to address the underlying causes of hate crimes. The systemic discrimination, the systemic racism, as well as, of course, the spread of hate and the proliferation of hate that we are seeing,” Go said in an interview.
According to Toronto police, Jewish people were the most targeted group in 2020, followed by Black, LGBTQ and Chinese people.
More antisemitic incidents
Michael Mostyn, the CEO of B’nai Brith Canada, supports the effort to boost the capacity of Toronto police to investigate hate crimes. According to the group, since last May there has been a “stark increase” in “violent antisemitic incidents” in Toronto.
“A well-financed and staffed TPS unit dedicated to combating hate crimes is one tool that we hope can make a difference in addressing this disturbing trend,” Mostyn wrote in an email.
In its proposed 2022 budget, the Toronto Police Service noted the increase and declared its intent to expand the capacity of the Hate Crimes Unit.
“One of the key priorities of the Service’s recent 2022 budget request will allow us, if approved, to redeploy resources to our Hate Crime Unit to help prevent hate crimes and increase investigative capacity in this critical area,” said Const. Caroline de Kloet, a Toronto police spokesperson.
“These additional resources would ensure that we are able to appropriately investigate any crimes believed to be motivated by hate, bias or prejudice.”
The Toronto Police Services Board approved the service’s proposed budget and its request to reallocate existing funding to the Hate Crimes Unit. Final approval from city council is expected in February.
“The Board recognizes the importance of adequately resourcing the service to investigate these crimes and identify those responsible, so they can be held accountable,” Ryan Teschner, the board’s executive director and chief of staff, said in a statement to CBC Toronto.