Newfoundland and Labrador boasts the lowest instance of police-reported hate crimes among Canadian provinces, according to an report issued by Statistics Canada last week. The authors presented data from 2011.
âStatisticians would say that maybe thereâs some kind of bias in the data,â said Dennis Kimberley, professor of social work at Memorial University.
âBut the reality is that cultures and communities do differ. They differ on levels of violence, including hate crimes.â
Kimberley has worked with police, the justice system and social services on the clinical, policy and training levels since 1979.
âJust because weâre talking about a difference in hate crimes doesnât mean that we treat all ethnic groups, or people of a different sexual orientation, that we treat them fairly and equally.
âThat would be a big logical leap. But the whole notion that how we do treat them doesnât reflect hate crimes as much as it does in other parts of Canada, I think thatâs probably true, as opposed to just a statistical anomaly,â Kimberley said.
Kimberleyâs experience has offered him a few ideas about
potential rationale behind the statistics.
âWhile Newfoundland doesnât have a clean record, there (are) good reasons to believe that the difference is reflective of community attitudes in Newfoundland of live and let live,â Kimberley said.
Human Rights Commissioner Remzi Cej was also hesitant to jump to conclusions.
âHate crimes are often perpetuated against members of vulnerable communities â religious and ethnic groups, sexual minorities, and so on,â Cej said.
âIt takes major courage to report a crime after victimization, as it is likely that in smaller centres, people fear the public exposure that can come from reporting a hate crime.â
But Cej said Newfoundlandâs institutions may have affected the statistic.
âWe must remember the important proactive initiatives Newfoundland has taken in preventing hate crimes from occurring in our province,â Cej said.
Cej was referring to the initiatives taken by organizations such as the Gay-Straight Alliances, interfaith alliances and Welcoming Communities.
Though lower levels of hate crimes occurred in this province versus others, the numbers still contributed to the national statistic of 1,132 police-reported hate crimes in 2011.
This number marked a five per cent decrease from 2010, but it remained higher than reports for 2008 and earlier.
âCan we do more? Of course we can,â Cej said.
âIt only takes one person for a hate crime.
âWe need to continue to work in different sectors of society to ensure that we donât experience hate in our communities.â