Police urge community to break silence on hate crimesWritten by Massey Hoveyda
On September 20th, the Ottawa Muslim Association in partnership with the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) and the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) hosted an information night and panel discussion on the subject of Hate Crimes.
The event, which was held in the basement of the Ottawa Main Mosque, was attended by over 50 members of the Ottawa community. The event was opened by Imam Samy Metwally who spoke a few words on the principles of Islam as it pertains to justice, reminding the audience of the importance of forgiveness and the pivotal role it plays in the legislation of love in Islam.
The Imam's speech was followed by a presentation by Sergeant Will Hinterberger of the OPS Hate Crime unit. Sergeant Hinterberger began his presentation with a brief history of the OPS Hate Crime unit, the oldest dedicated unit in the police service.
He said the unit was established in 1990 after Alain Brosseau, an Ottawa resident, was beaten to death by four teenagers who thought he was gay, when in fact he was not.
According to Sergeant Hinterberger, “A hate crime is a criminal offence committed against a person or property which is motivated by hate or prejudice based on either race, national or ethnic origin, language, religion, sex, age, sexual orientation and mental and physical disabilities.”
He said that only “two out of ten hate crimes” are actually reported to the authorities. This number, which seems abnormally low, can be explained by a variety of factors, which require awareness and dialogue in order for their impact to be fully understood. Sergeant Hinterberger explained that “fear of scorn, mistrust of police, fear of privacy being compromised and fear of re-victimization” were some of the barriers to reporting hate crimes.
In order to overcome these barriers, Sergeant Hinterberger explained that it's important to understand that by reporting a hate crime, you are “giving power back to the victim”. Even if the offensive act does not warrant serious punishment, once a report is opened under the offender's name, any future convictions for hate-based crimes will be supported by this documentation.
Sergeant Hinterberger went on to explain that most hate crimes are predominantly based on race and ethnicity, and therefore frequently they see Jewish and Muslim communities around Ottawa falling victim to such crimes.
“The best way to combat discriminatory speech is through dialogue,” he said.That this is why reporting a hate crime helps bring an end to the cycle of violence, and community outreach and education help eliminate hatred bias which leads to hate crimes.
Members of the community are encouraged to contact the Ottawa Police Service Hate Crime unit at 613-236-1222 ext 7300 to report any hate related crimes they witness or are a victim of. Sergeant Hinterberger emphasized on the importance of privacy and said that the Ottawa Police holds this issue paramount to the safety of the community.
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