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Canadians reported record high of more than 2,000 hate crimes in 2017

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More than 2,000 hate crimes were reported to Canadian police last year, marking a record high since comparable data first became available in 2009, according to a new Statistics Canada report.

In 2017, Canadians reported 2,073 hate crimes to police services, a sharp rise of 47 per cent compared to the previous year. This growth was primarily fuelled by Ontario, which saw the biggest spike in hate crimes with 1,023 incidents — a 67 per cent increase from 2016, with the majority of cases targeting Muslim, Black and Jewish communities.

A playground slide was vandalized with anti-Semitic and anti-Black graffiti in a Markham schoolyard in 2017. A Statistics Canada report released Thursday shows hate crimes are on the rise in Canada.
A playground slide was vandalized with anti-Semitic and anti-Black graffiti in a Markham schoolyard in 2017. A Statistics Canada report released Thursday shows hate crimes are on the rise in Canada.  (Submitted photo)

This was followed by Quebec, where hate crimes grew by 50 per cent and largely victimized the Muslim community — especially in the month after the Quebec City mosque shooting, which accounted for 26 per cent of anti-Muslim incidents reported in the province last year.

For anti-racism and advocacy groups, the report is just the latest testament to an alarming rise in hatred — and the time for effective action and leadership is long overdue.

“These attitudes remain prevalent in our society and this is unacceptable,” Brittany Andrew-Amofah, a board member with the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, said in a statement. “It’s time for political leaders to unequivocally speak out against hate and intolerance and in support of a multicultural society where everyone feels safe to participate and contribute.”

This new data comes with caveats. It’s unclear whether last year’s spike is due to a rise in incidents or improved reporting and hate crimes still represent a small proportion of overall crimes, accounting for just 0.1 per cent of the 1.9 million non-traffic crimes reported by police last year.

But police data also depends on a service’s ability — and resources — to effectively investigate hate crimes, which are vastly under-reported. In 2014, another Statistics Canada survey found that Canadians self-reported more than 330,000 criminal incidents motivated by hate, but only a third filed police reports. Groups like the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) and the Canadian Anti-Hate Network also criticize the current classification systems for being overly broad — making it difficult, for example, to discern whether a Muslim Arab man might have been targeted for his race, religion or both.

There is no specific offence under the Criminal Code called “hate crime,” but any crime can qualify as such — and, accordingly, increase a person’s jail sentence — if hatred is proven to be a motivating factor. Three sections under the Criminal Code also deal with hate propaganda, but the bar for laying charges is particularly high.

Last year, the majority of reported hate crimes were non-violent and involved incidents of mischief, like graffiti or vandalism. But violent incidents accounted for 53 per cent of hate crimes targeting people for their sexual orientation; by comparison, 24 per cent of hate crimes targeting religion and 47 per cent of incidents based on ethnicity were categorized as violent.

The leading motivation for a reported hate crime was race or ethnicity, with 878 incidents last year — an uptick of 32 per cent from 2016. The Black community was the most frequently targeted, with anti-Black incidents up by more than 50 per cent and accounting for 16 per cent of all hate crimes across Canada.

Hate crimes based on religion also grew by more than 80 per cent, with the biggest rise in incidents targeting Muslims. While anti-Muslim hate crimes dropped in 2016, the number of reported incidents more than doubled last year to make a total of 349.

“The numbers are quite astonishing,” said NCCM spokesperson, Leila Nasr. “At the same time, I have to say it’s not surprising to us. 2017 was a massive year for the Muslim community, starting with the massacre of six Muslim men while out praying in (a Quebec City) mosque. So I really think that set the tone for the rest of the year.”

Proportionally speaking, Jewish people were targeted the most, with anti-Semitic hate crimes accounting for 18 per cent of all reported incidents in 2017. Recent years have seen a growth in anti-Semitic incidents worldwide, but anxieties within North American Jewish communities have become particularly acute since 2017 — especially in the wake of the violent rallies in Charlottesville, Va., which were characterized by blatant anti-Semitism, and last month’s synagogue attack in Pittsburgh that killed 11 people, making it the deadliest anti-Semitic attack on North American soil.

“Whenever you have polarization, distrust of mainstream authorities and a dynamic of political demonization, this is where anti-Semitism can find an environment in which to grow,” said Steve McDonald, director of policy with the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. “Often you’ll see that when people are angry about a current political situation, if they’re anti-Semitic, they’ll link it back to Jews and point to Jews as a source of evil in the world.”

A mourner reacts during a funeral ceremony in Montreal for three victims of a deadly shooting at the Islamic Cultural Centre in Quebec City. The Jan. 29, 2017 shooting left six Muslim worshippers dead. A Statistics Canada report released Thursday shows hate crimes are on the rise in Canada.
A mourner reacts during a funeral ceremony in Montreal for three victims of a deadly shooting at the Islamic Cultural Centre in Quebec City. The Jan. 29, 2017 shooting left six Muslim worshippers dead. A Statistics Canada report released Thursday shows hate crimes are on the rise in Canada.  (CHRIS WATTIE / AFP/Getty Images File Photo)

Canada is now at a “critical moment” and politicians — especially those who are increasingly resorting to dog-whistle politics and xenophobic rhetoric — need to examine their own role in fuelling this growing tide of hatred, said Mohammed Hashim, a board member with the Urban Alliance for Race Relations.

“Economic anxiety is creating a level of discord amongst people and politicians are using minorities as scapegoats for it,” he said. “This is the result of continued and increasingly amplified scapegoating done by politicians who are preying upon people’s anxieties.”

Both CIJA and the NCCM are calling for more intervention from the Canadian government, including a national strategy on combating online hate and strengthening anti-racism efforts at the federal level. Local police services also need to be better trained on hate crimes, Nasr said; many Muslim-Canadians who report incidents to the NCCM say they were not believed by local law enforcement.

This latest report by Statistics Canada speaks to the urgent need for more funding and resources dedicated towards hate crime policing, said Bernie Farber, chair of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network. As a category of crime, “hatred” is particularly difficult to investigate and prosecute and recent years have seen an atrophying of hate crime units within police services, he said.

“There is no question that hate crime has the potential to lead to violence and even death, and we ignore that to our peril,” Farber said. “It is time for hate crime units to be restored and given proper funding and to get it back on track.”

Jennifer Yang is a Toronto-based reporter covering identity and inequality. Follow her on Twitter: @jyangstar


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Anglais

‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Anglais

Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Anglais

Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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