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Vicious attack puts gay Vancouver couple in hospital Add to ...

A gay couple were beaten so severely they ended up in hospital in Vancouver Saturday night.

Peter Regier and his partner David Holtzman were coming home from a Dionne Warwick concert, when they saw two men urinating on the doorstep of their Keefer Street home.

The couple had earlier been singing "What the World Needs Now is Love, Sweet Love," with other Warwick fans at the River Rock Casino, but Mr. Regier said there was "no love" when they asked the men to stop.

Mr. Regier said the two men launched into a "barrage" of homophobic slurs and insults before beating himself and Mr. Holtzman, with their fists.

The attackers ran off when they realized there were witnesses watching the events unfold, he said.

The assault left both men with concussions. Mr. Holtzman was also bitten and is suffering from impaired vision. Mr. Regier had his scalp torn open. Both were taken to hospital.

"We came out of this certainly damaged, but anti-gay assaults tend to be extremely savage," said Mr. Regier. "We recognize that there are many others in the GLBT community that have been hurt much, much more badly than we have."

According to the Vancouver Police Department witnesses have been interviewed and investigators are looking into all aspects of the assaults and any comments made by those involved in the incident.

Mayor Gregor Robertson spoke out against Saturday's attack, saying in a statement that he was "troubled and saddened" by the assault.

"Vancouver is a wonderfully diverse city and there is zero tolerance for any action or behaviour that discriminates or harms people for their beliefs, ethnicity or sexuality," he said.

"We need to speak out about it. This is a huge problem for the LGBT community and the greater community as well," Mr. Regier said.

The queer community is upset and concerned for the men, said Jennifer Breakspear, executive director of QMunity, a resource centre for the lesbian, gay, transgendered and bi-sexual community, situated in Vancouver's West End.

Ms. Breakspear said the bravery of the men in reporting the attack may empower other victims of hate crimes to feel more comfortable going to police.

An increase in reporting could also be behind the higher rate of hate crimes in Vancouver, she said.

"If we are seeing a rise in the hate crime numbers, some of that may be because members of our community are getting the message that it is safe to call police," she said, adding that the Vancouver Police Department also has a special hate crimes unit which may skew the numbers upwards.

People may hesitate going to police because of historical attitudes and laws, a feeling that they won't be taken seriously, or because they haven't come out of the closet yet, said Ms. Breakspear.

Statistics Canada released new data on Monday showing that hate crimes based on sexual orientation doubled from 2007 to 2008. Sixteen per cent of all reported hate crimes countrywide in 2008 were motivated by sexual orientation. These crimes were also more violent than those motivated by race or religion.

Vancouver - along with Hamilton, Ont. - had the highest rate of hate crimes in 2008 with 6.3 crimes committed for every 100,000 people. The statistics are based on the census metropolitan areas which includes municipalities surrounding the cities.

Among violent incidents motivated by sexual orientation, 85 per cent of the victims were male.

Neither the recent attack nor the statistics mean Vancouver is unsafe for the queer community, according to Ms. Breakspear.

"This has got to the one of the best places to be queer," she said. "This is a city where the police department is paying attention to the queer community in a way that I don't see in other cities."

The B.C. New Democrats on Monday called for a review of legislation and enforcement dealing with hate crimes with the release of the new statistics and Saturday's attack.

"Even one hate crime is one too many," said New Democrat solicitor-general critic Mike Farnworth in a press release. The B.C. Liberal government has done very little to curb hate-fuelled violence in our province, and action is overdue."

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