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OHRC Director of Policy, Education, Monitoring and Outreach calls for a province-wide anti-hate strategy

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Recently, OHRC Director of Policy, Education, Monitoring and Outreach, Juliette Nicolet, joined Radio-Canada - Jonction 11-17 for an interview calling for a province-wide anti-hate strategy, to galvanize and support public action.



Radio-Canada: Today, the international community is observing what is known as the International Day of Living Together in Peace. That said, hate is everywhere, and according to an analysis published last month by Statistics Canada, Canada has seen a 72% increase in police-reported hate crimes since the start of the pandemic. Here in the North, we’re not immune. In fact, Sudbury police reported last month that they had investigated 33 hate incidents. That’s ten more than the previous year, and it’s increasing every year. So, what should collective action against hate look like? Let’s talk to Juliette Nicolet, Policy Director, Education and Outreach at the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Ms. Nicolet, good afternoon.

Juliette Nicolet: Good afternoon.

Radio-Canada: In 2023, when we talk about hate, hateful acts and hate crimes, what exactly are we talking about?

Juliette Nicolet: Well, unfortunately, we’re talking about an increase in hate activity against individuals and groups based on colour, ethnicity, race, beliefs, gender and sexual orientation, among other reasons, and we can see that since 2019 many communities are experiencing an increase in reports of hate crimes. You’ve already noted that in Sudbury, we’ve gone from four reported cases in 2019 to 33 in 2022. So that’s a very big increase, which has a real impact on the populations targeted, and also on the social climate in which people’s daily lives take place. Because it’s our friends, our neighbours, our fellow citizens who suffer from these acts, and the figures are comparable in other northern communities.

Radio-Canada: Are there communities that are more targeted, that have more victims of these hateful acts?

Juliette Nicolet: All communities are targeted. Since Covid-19, we’ve been talking about Asian communities, but also religious communities, Black communities, LGBTQ2S communities. So, there are a huge number of communities in this basket, unfortunately, and that’s why it’s important to understand that these are acts that don’t just have an individual impact, or even a family or community impact in small communities but are really acts or incidents that have a much wider impact. That’s why we’ve called for a well-funded provincial anti-hate strategy, to galvanize and support public action, because it affects everyone.

Radio-Canada: Do we understand why there are more now, in 2023, than there were four years ago? I mentioned the pandemic, but beyond that, how can we explain this rise in hatred? Not only hatred, but extreme right-wing extremism all over the world, and people who openly declare themselves proud to be fascists and who now display their violence without any shame. Do we understand why?

Juliette Nicolet: I think it’s a question, we see it very clearly everywhere, of an increasingly accentuated political polarization, let’s say, and the effect is that people can no longer talk to each other, can no longer meet, can no longer find the other [viewpoint] in a certain sense. And that’s why it’s very, very important to have, not only as a starting point, a provincial strategy, but also the involvement of public institutions, civil society, the private sector as employers, hospitals, schools, housing providers and other services. All have a legal responsibility under human rights legislation to ensure that the environment is free from discrimination and harassment, which is the beginning, in a sense, of the spectrum of hatred… the beginning is discrimination and harassment. And everyone has to counter these manifestations of hatred.

Radio-Canada: How do we do that? How do we get there?

Juliette Nicolet: Well, I think we do it first by developing policies at the level of the organizations themselves, and this with the support of a provincial strategy of course, which can frame this work. But we also need policies and actions that build bridges between communities, that manage to communicate from one community to another, to create dialogue, to create exchanges, which can happen at the level of organizations, at the community level, but which also, afterwards, create individual relationships between people who may not come from the same community, but who learn to understand each other.

Radio-Canada: The concern that we sometimes have here with what you’re proposing, that is, a concerted provincial strategy, is that there are special characteristics in the North. Hate is everywhere, but there are certain realities that are different here, if only because of the many Indigenous communities, the First Nations are often the target of this violence. In smaller communities, the new presence of immigrants from Africa is something we have to deal with, so there’s a shock for a, let’s say, native-born population. There’s also the whole intolerance of sexual diversity, which is perhaps less in rural northern communities. So, if there’s a provincial strategy, it must also be adapted to the realities of the North and Francophones.

Juliette Nicolet: Absolutely, a provincial strategy has to be able to deal with community differences, but also regional differences. Community, in a sense, also means “Francophone/Anglophone,” and regional “North/South.” There are very big differences.

Radio-Canada: Yes, there are.

Juliette Nicolet: There are real differences, and you have to deal with them. And so, a provincial strategy has to have certain components that are common, wherever they are, but that can be applied in a differentiated way according to the needs of the region and the communities.

Radio-Canada: Juliette Nicolet, you are the Director of Policy, Education, Monitoring and Outreach for the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Thank you so much for reflecting on this delicate and painful issue with us this afternoon.

Juliette Nicolet: Thank you very much.

Radio-Canada: You’re listening to Jonction 11-17.