B.C. hate incidents ‘dramatically’ increased during pandemic, inquiry finds

British Columbia’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner (BCHRC) is making a dozen recommendations to address what it found was a dramatic rise in hate incidents during the early years of the pandemic.

The commissioner, Kasari Govender, released a 400-plus page report on Tuesday that outlined the pandemic’s impact on hate incidents in B.C., the province’s history of discrimination and oppression, government and police response to hate, and recommendations to curb future instances.

“We cannot be surprised by the rise of hate in future states of crisis. We must confront what we have experienced during the pandemic and take action now to prevent it from happening again. Our recommendations chart out a path for action,” the report states.

The report was commissioned in August 2021 in response to a rise in police reports for hate-related incidents.

Information for the report was gathered through a combination of oral hearings, public polls, research reports, and information requests to police and social media companies.

Hate ‘disproportionately’ affects marginalized communities

The commissioner’s report found that hate has been experienced through “every corner” of B.C., targeting people’s race, gender, sexual identity, religion, and Indigeneity, particularly when there is an intersecting identity between those factors.

“Hate incidents ranged from hateful comments and slurs, graffiti, property damage, physical harassment and aggression, threats of violence and people being spat on or having garbage thrown at them, to violent assaults,” the report states.

For those in marginalized communities, the report found that hate leads to “immediate and long-term physical and emotional harm,” along with fear for safety and an “erosion” of people’s sense of belonging.

An increase in instances of anti-Asian hate and violence on the basis of gender were both identified as “particularly acute.”

Gender-based hate

An increase in gender-based violence during the pandemic was predictable and should have been mitigated, Govender found.

The report highlights how support systems for victims and survivors of gender-based violence were closed or operated at reduced capacity, which put people at “significant” risk.

Additionally, it is highlighted in the report that laws surrounding hate crimes often don’t cover gender.

“While hate on the basis of gender frequently manifests in gender-based violence, that violence is rarely considered to be hate either under the law or more generally within society,” the report said.

Further, the commissioner notes that there is evidence pointing to a link between gender-based violence, misogyny, and mass killings.

Online hate on the rise in B.C.

Hate spread online was also found to be on the rise during the pandemic, with the commissioner saying that social media companies themselves have done little to address the matter.

The report cites a “rampant” spread of misinformation, disinformation, and conspiracy theories online which can be attributed to an increase in online hate.

“Many algorithms used by social media companies to generate profit also generate hate by driving viewers to hateful content. The policies and practices of many social media companies demonstrate a lack of commitment to addressing the rise in hate on their platforms,” the report said.

The commissioner notes that many companies are not transparent in how they address hate speech on their platforms, “which can obscure the scope of the problem and even amplify it.”

B.C.’s response to hate ‘largely ineffective’: report

A lack of data and policies, the commissioner found, has led to little effective action on addressing the rise in hate incidents in B.C.

While gathering information for the report, the report found many public institutions do not record data on hate instances. An example the commissioner gives is the lack of data where hate is considered a factor in someone’s sentencing for a crime.

Information from social media companies was hard to come by, with the report saying they were “unable or unwilling” to provide data on hate on their platforms during the pandemic.

That lack of information is a reason why the legal and government response to hate is deemed “largely ineffective” by Govender.

For the legal system, the report cites problems in the way hate instances are reported, which also affects how police respond to them.

For the government, the report says there is a lack of relevant policies to address hate, and community organizations that can address it are underfunded.

Hate report recommendations to B.C. government

The commissioner has outlined 12 recommendations on how to address the rise in hate seen in B.C. throughout the pandemic.

Most of the recommendations are for the B.C. government, which Govender says should create a role to lead prevention and responses to such incidents.

There are also suggestions to implement better education about hate at the school level, along with a centralized, province-wide reporting system for hate incidents.

At a news conference Tuesday, B.C. Premier David Eby acknowledged the report, saying there is “more to do” to address hate in the province.

“Working with the commissioner around implementation to ensure that her recommendations are more than just recommendations. That they result in a reduction in hate in our communities is a priority for me and our government,” he said.

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today