The British Columbia government is offering groups affected by hate crimes up to $10,000 each in a bid to combat what it says is a spike in racially motivated incidents across the province.
Premier David Eby said Wednesday the province will also launch a racist incident helpline starting in the spring to refer victims who experienced such attacks to counselling and other support services.
Eby said he “regrets” the situation reaching a level where additional support to ethnic, religious and other minority groups is needed to counter “the growing tide of hate across the world” that is reaching B.C.’s shores.
“Let me be very clear: No one should live in fear because of who they are, to be targeted because of a result of what’s happening in the Middle East. No one should be scared to express a desire for peace and human rights. And no one should be afraid to mourn for those lost or call for the release of hostages.”
The new funding will be provided to places of worship, cultural community centres, and other organizations working with at-risk groups to help pay for security equipment, graffiti removal and repairs to damage done by hate-motivated crimes, the premier said.
Details about the application process will be unveiled on Nov. 28.
Eby said the hotline will be an equally important component in combating racism, since many in minority communities may not be comfortable reporting such incidents to police for one reason or another.
The province’s creation of the support hotline is carefully planned to provide people who experienced hate-motivated incidents with the sense that they are not alone in the community, which may prompt them to go to police for additional help, he said.
“They don’t want it to be ignored,” Eby said of people who may use the support line rather than go to police first. “They don’t want it to be overlooked. And so the goal of this reporting system is that it gives people another option.
“And when we couple it up with the referral to a community group, when someone is referred there and they have support and they feel like they’re surrounded by a community that cares about them there’s a greater chance that they may actually bring it forward to law enforcement for prosecution.”
The anonymized data collected from the helpline will be analyzed to recognize patterns and trends for authorities to decide how to deploy anti-racism resources in the future.
June Francis, chair of the province’s Anti-Racism Data Act Committee, said the support line may coax victims to come forward more readily because many in minority communities have been so conditioned to facing racism frequently that they may fail to recognize when a crime is committed against them.
“Sometimes we experience it so often that we ourselves aren’t sure this is a crime,” Francis said. “And so we are also reluctant to call the police if we’re kind of second guessing if this a crime or is it not a crime.
“But we would like it recorded. We would like somebody to work on it.”
B.C.’s human rights commissioner, Kasari Govender, said in a statement earlier this month that events in Gaza had caused a surge in discrimination and violence against both Jewish and Muslim people.
Eby called the rising acts of hate and racism against members of the Muslim and Jewish communities in the province “deeply troubling,” adding that incidents targeting individuals such as LGBTQ members or people of Chinese or Iranian origin have also spiked in various times in the last few years.