Hate crimes unit consulted for investigation after Edmonton mosque visited by men known to police

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Edmonton police said their hate crimes unit was called in to help investigate after a prominent and well-attended mosque in the northwest part of the city was visited by a group whose activities are known to police.

A police spokesperson told Global News they could not identify the group being monitored because “groups change names and alliances frequently, so there’s no consistent name they go by.”

The communications director of Al Rashid Mosque said people she works with were very concerned when the men visited.

“There were two suspicious men that came into the mosque [and] we were not sure what they were doing,” Noor Al-Henedy told Global News. “One of them was wearing a toque with the word ‘infidel’ on it in Arabic. We didn’t pay attention at first until our executive director went upstairs.

“They toured the mosque, came upstairs to the women’s section… they were just looking like they were scouting the place and then he (one of the men she called suspicious) went downstairs and went to the bathroom.”

Al-Henedy said the men left when approached by the mosque’s executive director. She said the men joined other members of their group outside and a confrontation unfolded with members of the community. She said one of the people who was part of the group she didn’t know and who was involved in the confrontation streamed the encounter live online.

“The security and safety of everyone that was coming to pray in the mosque was our priority,” she said. “So we called the cops right away to get them to come and evaluate the situation and eliminate any threats that may have happened because we were not really sure what was happening.

“We are entrusted by our community as an organization to make sure that we have the freedom to practise our religion and we wanted to make sure that everybody was in a safe place and nobody was getting harassed.”

Ty Hunt told Global News he was one of a group of five men that went to the mosque so that he could use the bathroom and they could ask questions about Islam. He said it’s hard for him to ask questions of Muslims because “there’s no Muslims at the Yellow Vest rallies” and “it’s hard to run into a Muslim on the street.”

Hunt is the bearded man seen entering the building to use the bathroom, and who was wearing the toque that says “infidel” in Arabic.

“I’ve got a tattoo on my neck that says ‘infidel’ as well… it just means non-believer… in anything,” Hunt said.

“The Christians don’t get offended by it…I’ve gotten more feedback by the Muslims than I have anybody else…. I put it on my neck because it’s time for them to get over it. You’re in Canada, now it’s [time to] integrate into Canada.”

In a phone interview, Hunt told Global News he is a former member of the Soldiers of Odin, a far-right group that has members that “adhere to extreme right-wing ideology and are not afraid to use violence,” according to a declassified Canada Border Services Agency intelligence report obtained by Global News

READ MORE: Edmonton protesters confront far-right group that CBSA report suggests is ‘not afraid to use violence’

Watch below: (From September 2018) A few blocks away from where thousands of people gathered for an annual Labour Day barbecue in Edmonton, a protest was held against a group known for its far-right views. Kim Smith reports.






Hunt said he left the group and joined another one known as The Clann. He said he is involved in a movement that is opposed to the United Nations because of a threat he said it poses to Canadian sovereignty. He said he supports the Yellow Vest movement and has “questions about Islam.”

READ MORE: UCP nomination candidate turfed in pub night controversy: ‘Polite racist is still racist’

Police said officers showed up at the mosque at around noon but there were no arrests.

Noor Al-Henedy said police also went to the Edmonton Islamic Academy to make sure everyone was safe there.

“We are working with them (police) to make sure such incidents do not happen again,” she said.

READ MORE: Fire at mosque in Edson Saturday night leaves community shaken: RCMP investigating

Premier Rachel Notley took to Twitter to denounce hate on Friday night without directly referencing the mosque incident.

“Hearing that a hate group is openly harassing and terrorizing people in #yeg with racist and homophobic attacks and posters is beyond upsetting,” her tweet read. “This is not who we are.

“There is no room for this kind of hate in the strong, open and optimistic Alberta that inspires me and is our home.”

READ MORE: Edmontonians gather to honour victims of Pittsburgh massacre, support Jewish community

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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COMMENTARY: The case for not naming those not yet convicted of crimes – National

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In the business of talk radio, and opinion journalism generally, you’re always on the lookout for “talkers” — stories that are accessible enough to the public to be interesting to many people, and important enough to hold their attention. In early December, the York Regional Police, a regional service in the Greater Toronto Area, handed us a hell of a talker.

Frustrated by stubbornly high impaired driving rates, the York police had decided to begin naming-and-shaming those charged with impaired driving offences. Read what I said carefully there — charged with offences. Not convicted of them. York Region is far from the first to do this. Most of the other Toronto-area forces already do, at least selectively, and some have been doing so for years. But the decision by York to begin naming and shaming still provoked a lot of debate.

READ MORE: York police name drivers charged with impaired driving 

But it was, I think, the wrong one.

The debate we had was whether York should be identifying people who are merely accused of impaired driving, even though they haven’t been convicted yet. I had a lot of passionate responses from listeners on my show, protesting how outrageous this is, since accused drunk drivers are innocent until proven guilty. I confess I was baffled. We publicly name accused people — still innocent under the law — all the time. York Region was reversing a double exception: it was the rare GTA force that wasn’t already naming drunks, and drunks themselves were an exception to the norm of naming those arrested and charged for other crimes.

That’s when the absurdity of the entire debate hit me. This isn’t about whether we should be naming drunk drivers in one region of a million souls. The issue was actually vastly more fundamental. Should we be naming anyone accused but not yet convicted of a crime?

And I think the answer is no.

You might not believe this, given the above, but I’ve always thought of myself as a law-and-order guy. Tough on crime, from a family with a long history of police service. I still think of myself that way. But I also recognize that there are two major changes happening right now.

READ MORE: Google heads to Europe’s top court to fight order to remove search results worldwide

Google, for starters, has an awfully long memory. News is now permanent. Get yourself arrested and charged and there’s a very good chance that a record of that is going to be available online forever. But while the news may be effectively permanent now, a reporter’s attention to any particular case is not. The fact that you’re arrested has a much better chance of making the news, or a web database, than most of what comes next.

The charges could be dropped or stayed, you could be acquitted, you could be convicted of a lesser offence, but none of this is likely to be as accessible to the public. We already know that incarceration has massively negative impacts on one’s future employment prospects. I worry that a mere arrest, only the first part of a legal process all of us are owed, will become the only real public record of an offence, with potentially devastating impacts on one’s life no matter what comes after that arrest.

I’m not the first to notice this problem. The European Union and Argentina have enacted controversial “right to be forgotten” laws designed, in part, to address this very issue — making sure one’s first Google hit forever is not a report of some minor crime. It’s an awkward and imperfect attempt to address the real problem I’m describing, but it’s also complicated. My solution is easier — not reporting on mere accusations, and not publicly naming the accused, will solve this issue more effectively.

WATCH BELOW: Three things drivers need to know about new impaired driving law






There’s also the issue that our legal system is so dysfunctional that the dysfunction itself now acts as a form of extralegal punishment. Canadian courts are obscenely overloaded, clogged up with too many cases and massive delays. The causes of this are complex; I won’t get into them at length here. But it’s now routine to read about some accused criminal or another having a court appearance for routine matters and then, at the end, the next appearance is booked more than a full calendar year later. That’s absolutely insane. These people are not guilty yet under the law. They are innocent until proven guilty, but it might take them months or even years to get the chance to clear their name. In the meantime, they’re accused and unable to defend themselves pending a court system that is failing all of us, stranded in legal limbo. This itself is punitive, especially because the public will only know that they have been charged, and won’t wait around for a verdict years later before deciding if they are a bad guy.

The grim reality is this: “innocent until proven guilty” is a talking point we all pay lip service to, but most us don’t really buy into it. About a year ago, a man in my neighbourhood was accused of a serious crime — a very serious one. And I’m confident the Crown will make the case. But the mood in the community was that that’s just a formality. “String him up now” was the attitude of more than one person I talked to. When I pointed out that he wasn’t convicted of anything yet, I was treated as little better than an accomplice. Yes, it’s true the crime was terrible, involving children. But fundamental legal rights have to apply to everyone, all the time, or else they’re neither rights or fundamental.

To put it more bluntly: we would all demand the presumption of innocence for ourselves, while most would have no desire to extend that courtesy to others. It’s just not how we’re wired. We’re more inclined to form a posse than a jury. It’s our nature, and we need to recognize that nature, and work our way around it. Granting anonymity to virtually all accused criminals until they’re convicted is a recognition that despite our stated ideals, most of us really do assume that charged is as good as guilty.

WATCH BELOW: York regional police begins naming drivers charged with impaired driving






I haven’t come to this conclusion lightly. I have two major objections to my own point. The first: I work in the media. It’s our job to learn and report. Media companies, Global News included, routinely go to court to get more information on criminal proceedings. It is weird for me to be arguing for less information to be publicly released, and I’m sure my reporter colleagues are wondering what the hell I’m drinking as I write this (lukewarm Diet Pepsi, for the record).

The other issue is narrower but more important: you may have noticed I fudged one of my own bold declarations above just a tiny bit. I said we should grant “anonymity to virtually all accused criminals.” (Emphasis added.) I’m a pragmatist. There are sometimes very good reasons to release the name of an accused, and perhaps even a mugshot. It can be hugely helpful for law enforcement when they need the public’s help with their investigation, especially when there’s the possibility of more victims, including some that may still be in danger. And there will certainly be times when the police are looking for a suspect they don’t have in custody yet, and release details about that person to assist in their search. I can’t in good conscience argue that that’s a bad thing.

So what I’m proposing is that we withhold publicly naming those accused of crimes until they’re convicted, unless there’s a pressing law enforcement need to publicize that information. The courts would probably be best placed to make that call in the same way they already review search warrant requests.

It’s not a perfect solution. It couldn’t apply evenly to all accused, and there are genuine issues regarding free expression and freedom of the press. I am reluctant to make this proposal. I’m not sure I’ve entirely convinced myself.

But on balance, I think this is still something we need to do, and the sooner the better. And if you felt even the slightest unease when you heard York Region was going to begin naming and shaming accused drunk drivers, you probably agree with me, at least in part.

Matt Gurney is host of The Exchange with Matt Gurney on Global News Radio 640 Toronto and a columnist for Global News.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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In Canada, Jews face more hate crimes, while Muslims face more violent ones: StatCan – National

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For years, police-reported hate crimes in Canada were inching up slowly.

They went up by three per cent in 2016 and by five per cent the year before. They even fell in 2013, dropping by 17 per cent from the year before.

That all changed last year —  police-reported hate crime rose by nearly 50 per cent, much of it driven by incidents that targeted Canada’s Jewish, Muslim and black populations, according to Statistics Canada data released on Thursday.

And the differences are even more stark when you split the incidents between violent and non-violent crime.

Coverage of hate crimes on Globalnews.ca:


Among religious groups, Jews were the biggest targets for hate crimes — they were victims in 360 incidents last year.

Muslims came a close second, with 349 incidents.

READ MORE: Hate crimes against Muslims in Canada increase 253% over four years

Hate crimes grew for both populations.

Jews were targeted in 139 more incidents last year than in 2016, for an increase of 63 per cent.

Muslims, meanwhile, were targeted in an additional 210 incidents, for an increase of 151 per cent.

There had been considerably more incidents targeting Jews than Muslims in previous years. That gap narrowed dramatically in this year’s data.

Most of these incidents involved non-violent offences. But Muslims were a more prominent target when it came to violent hate crime.

“Uttering threats” was the most prominent violent offence that Muslims faced last year, with 61 incidents, while Jews faced 22.

They were also more prominent targets for assault (30 incidents versus 13), including both common assault (20 incidents versus nine) and assault with a weapon, assault causing bodily harm or aggravated assault (10 versus four).

READ MORE: Hate crime reports in the U.S. spiked 17% last year — FBI

Many hate crimes happened in Quebec, where they tripled from 41 in 2016 to 117 in 2017.

Hate crime reports for incidents involving Muslims jumped there in February 2017, the month after six people were killed at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec.

Incidents reported in that month accounted for over a quarter of all incidents targeting Muslims in the province last year.

There were 184 reported hate crimes targeting Muslims in Ontario — but there were more incidents targeting Jews in that province (209).

People gather to observe a candlelight vigil in Toronto, on Monday, January 30, 2017, for victims of the shooting at a Quebec City mosque.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

All of this happened as hate crimes targeting religion grew by 83 per cent.

Such incidents accounted for 41 per cent of all hate crimes in 2017, up from 33 per cent the previous year.

Hate crimes targeting Catholics also went up, from 27 incidents in 2016 to 39 incidents in 2017.

WATCH: Man allegedly attacks 11-year-old girl, cuts hijab with scissors






In a statement, the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) said it was “deeply concerned” by the statistics.

“The data, while very unsettling for our communities, unfortunately does not surprise us,” NCCM executive member Ihsaan Gardee said in the statement.

“2017 was an immensely difficult year for the Canadian Muslim community, beginning on Jan. 29 with the single largest Islamophobic attack in Canada’s history, in which six men were brutally murdered and many others injured while worshipping in their Quebec City mosque.

“This new data reveals anti-Muslim hate crimes peaked in February 2017, signalling that the shooting very much set the tone for the increase in hate crimes against Muslims for the remainder of the year.”

In a separate release, the Urban Alliance on Race Relations (UARR) noted that, in the wake of the Quebec City shooting, there were a series of anti-Muslim rallies that gathered in response to a federal motion known as M-103, which called on federal politicians to condemn Islamophobia.

“Sadly, it is no surprise that hate crimes against Muslims rose so dramatically last year,” Mohammed Hashim, board member with the UARR, said in a statement.

People hold up a signs during a demonstration to oppose motion M103 in Montreal, Saturday, March 4, 2017.

THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Graham Hughes

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs noted the increase in hate crimes targeting Jewish people, but also against black, Arab or West Asian and LGBTQ+ populations.

CEO Shimon Koffler Fogel called on the federal government to undertake three steps: to expand the Security Infrastructure Program, to come up with a national strategy to fight hate on the internet and to “strengthen the capacity of law enforcement to combat hate crime.”

“This should include enhancing legal tools to deal with hate speech and supporting the creation of local hate crime units where they are lacking,” Fogel said in a statement.

Religion wasn’t the only ground upon which people were targeted for hate crimes.

Incidents targeting black people went up 50 per cent to 321, while incidents targeting Arab or West Asian people jumped by 27 per cent, to hit 142.

Hate crime incidents targeting people for their sexual orientation also increased by 16 per cent in 2017, hitting 204.

Police stations provide crime data to Statistics Canada, which helps them generate reports like this one.

  • With files from The Canadian Press

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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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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Hate crimes reached all-time high in 2017, Statistics Canada says

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The number of police-reported hate crimes reached an all-time high in 2017, largely driven by incidents targeting Muslim, Jewish and black people, according to Statistics Canada data released Thursday.

The federal agency said hate crimes have been steadily climbing since 2014, but shot up by some 47 per cent 2017, the last year for which data was collected. In total, Canadian police forces reported 2,073 hate crimes – the most since 2009, when data became available.

The increases were largely driven by incidents in Ontario and Quebec, Statistics Canada says.

In the worst incident in the country, six Muslim men were shot to death and others were seriously injured during an attack on a Quebec City mosque in January 2017. This spring, 28-year-old Alexandre Bissonnette pleaded guilty, but said he was not Islamophobic and instead « carried away by fear and a horrible form of despair. »

But police are also dealing with an increase in smaller incidents.

Toronto police’s hate crime unit said it investigated 186 incidents — largely vandalism and graffiti — in 2017. In nearby Hamilton, police reported an 18 per cent increase in the number of what the force calls hate and bias incidents.

Alberta and British Columbia also reported increases in the number of incidents.

Statistics Canada’s report says the increase may be partially driven by more people reporting hateful incidents, but it also cautions a large number are not reported.

Hate crimes account for 0.1 per cent of the more than 1.9 million non-traffic crimes reported by Canadian police services in 2017.

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