Thursday, June 12, 2008

Exist Hate crimes in Canada?

Statistics Canada provides invaluable service as national provider of statistical information, the first of its two self-proclaimed "main objectives."

But the federal body did a great disservice to Kingston and fell down on the job on objective No. 2, promoting "sound statistical standards and practices."

That's because Statistics Canada released 2006 information about hate crimes that ranked Kingston as the second-most racist city in Canada, behind only Calgary.

The survey found an incident rate of 8.5 hate crimes per 100,000 as based on police reports - nearly triple the national average of 3.1. Calgary's rate was 9.1 and Kingston was followed by Ottawa at 6.6, London at 5.9 and Toronto at 5.5.

But by the time the Whig-Standard crunched the numbers - or the comparisons, at least - they no longer seemed valid. It seems that the Calgary and Kingston police forces may be more zealous in the way they report the statistics than in other cities.

Sgt. Helene Corcoran of the Kingston Police has investigated hate crimes for three years and in that time has only encountered two or three violent crimes against people of a visible minority.

And specific to 2006, the year of focus for the Statistics Canada report, a series of disparaging letters sent to local mosques and politicians were all classified as individual hate-crime occurrences. That process would have inflated Kingston's numbers.

At the other extreme of the statistical ledger, criminologists and other experts suspect that many police forces are under-reporting hate-crime occurrences in their communities.

"There are protocols that can differ between police services that can also affect the volume of crime that is reported to them," said one of the report's authors.

Which begs the question: What purpose does the publishing of the results serve?

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