This op-ed by Chief Commissioner Patricia DeGuire was published on TVO.org on April 25, 2023.
The suspected hate-motivated attacks against two mosques in Markham in recent weeks are a potent reminder of the surge in hate.
Analysis released last month by Statistics Canada shows a 72 per cent surge in police-reported hate crimes since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The numbers are concerning. The connection to systemic discrimination is undeniable.
A 2021 survey of self- and witness-reported incidents indicated a steep increase in assault, online hate, and racism against Asian Canadians, with a majority of attacks targeting women. A recent British Columbia Human Rights Commission report on hate also shows that the pandemic has intensified and exposed ongoing prejudice, discrimination, and hate targeted at Muslim, Jewish, Indigenous, Black, Asian, LGBTQ2S, and other communities across Canada.
The people and communities behind the numbers are real. Many routinely experience incidents of hate in everyday life — in the streets, parks, restaurants, stores, schools, and health-care settings, on transit, online, and even in our homes. These are places where we should all feel safe. Some even lose their lives, as we saw with the alleged hate-motivated murder of four family members of a London Muslim family nearly two years ago.
Hatred is rooted in many things, not just creed-based discrimination. It also takes the form of anti-Asian, anti-Black, and anti-Indigenous racism, misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia. Hate starts with stereotypes, negative attitudes, and prejudice toward individuals and groups because of their identity. Unfortunately, it does not stop there.
Prejudice can turn into acts of bias, discrimination, harassment, incitement of hatred, and even violence. Discrimination and hate profoundly and permanently harm individuals and communities and weaken our society by distorting public dialogue and human connections. Hate undermines our social and political institutions, the rule of law, and the values of democracy upon which we rely for our prosperity and well-being. Our social and political institutions must therefore step up and meaningfully address these harms.
Addressing hate is a collective responsibility. Governments, public- and private-sector organizations, and civil society must act by calling out hate and implementing policies and programs that send a clear message that hate against identifiable groups is damaging to individuals, to communities, and, ultimately, to all of us who wish to live in peace and harmony.
Education is a key component in the fight against discrimination and hate. Everybody must be taught about the history and legacy of racism and colonialism in Canada. This includes the experiences of Indigenous peoples and the legacy of residential schools and the history, contributions, and experiences of Black, religious, and other racialized communities.
But education is not enough. Ontario needs a well-resourced provincewide anti-hate strategy that will galvanize and support public action. We must tackle anti-Black racism, anti-Indigenous racism, antisemitism, homophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia, and other forms of hate in education and ensure that our schools are a safe and inclusive environment. Law enforcement needs a shared understanding of how to define, identify, collect, and report hate incidents and lay charges. We need a human-rights system that is well-equipped with new ways to address hate.
We also require individual accountability. This includes using our freedom of expression and calling out hate when it happens. It is about making sure we live up to the vision of Ontario’s Human Rights Code: a province where everyone is treated equally with dignity and respect, made to feel welcome, and able to contribute fully to the life of our community.