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Liberals to ease application process for hate crime prevention fund

Ralph Goodale speaks during question period on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on March 24, 2016.

Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The federal government is making it easier for religious and cultural groups at risk of hate crimes to improve security in and around their buildings.

The Liberals are expanding the range of eligible costs incurred by schools, community centres and places of worship.

The $1-million-a-year program funds items such as security assessments, modest construction costs, alarm systems, gates, lighting, motion detectors, closed-circuit TV systems, anti-graffiti sealant and training on use of new equipment.

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It covers up to half of project costs, to a maximum of $100,000.

The program has provided money to 189 projects since it began nine years ago.

Under the renewed program, which will accept applications as of Thursday, institutions can apply for security enhancements to the interior of a building, not just the exterior.

In addition, applicants who can make a case they are at risk of an attack will be eligible, while in the past only those that had experienced an incident could apply.

"There is no social licence for hate, not in this country," Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told a news conference. "And I want to be very clear — hate-motivated crimes in Canada will not be tolerated."

Goodale said the changes are a result of concerns raised to MPs and a recent spate of hate crimes in Canada. In Ottawa, several Jewish, Muslim and Christian places of worship were targeted with hateful graffiti.

"It's a relatively modest budget, it's not a terribly expensive program," he said. "But it's one that can build confidence, build a sense of safety and security and send a very important public policy message."

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Federal discussions about broadening the program predated the extreme rhetoric during the recent American election and racist incidents linked to the United Kingdom's Brexit vote, he said.

Goodale wouldn't talk about whether the recent acts of vandalism in Canada had anything to do with the U.S. ballot.

"I'm not going to comment on events in other countries. What I'm commenting on is what we can do in Canada."

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