Hate crimes are on the rise in Halton Region and the Halton Police Board and Halton Region Police Service (HRPS) are addressing this issue as a top priority. Hate crimes are defined as criminal acts motivated by hate or bias against an individual or group, based on their race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or other characteristics. These crimes can include assault, vandalism or harassment. They have a lasting impact on individuals and communities, undermining the very fabric of our diverse society.
During the February Board meeting, this very topic was an important agenda item and a key area of discussion for the Board. Chief Stephen J. Tanner provided a high-level report on hate crimes in Halton, noting that in 2022 the number of hate-related occurrences reported to HRPS increased from 2021.
The report outlined specific increases in hate crime occurrences by the municipality and by target group, as well as how HRPS is working together to address the rise in numbers. This includes undertaking a third-party study on hate and bias in our community, working with Dr. Barbara Perry, Director of the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism; conducting preventive patrols across the Region; hosting community events and presentations; supporting the #NoHateinHalton campaign; and providing hate crime training for all members of the Service. In addition, HRPS received a $1.2 million community safety and policing grant to enhance the Service’s ability to combat hate within the Region.
During Chief Tanner’s presentation, Board members asked thoughtful questions and raised important concerns. Board Member Curt Allen inquired about how the Courts viewed hate crimes and the increased incidents. “As we build our region to be a diverse community, we need the Courts to stand behind us,” said Allen. “We appreciate the work that the Service is doing but to make real change, we need the support of the broader society, and the Courts are part of that.” The sentiment was echoed among the group and the Board concluded that a proactive approach was needed, including advocating for tougher hate-crime laws and lobbying for the support of the Attorney General. As a first step, the Board Chair and Police Chief will come together to draft official correspondence, with a strong call to action, and share it widely among political offices.
Hate crimes have a devastating impact on individuals and communities and are a serious issue in Halton Region. The Board’s commitment to work with HRPS to address hate crimes in the Region is an important step forward and another way we are keeping Halton Region safe. By increasing awareness, promoting understanding and tolerance and improving the response to hate crimes, we can all work together to create a safer and more inclusive community for all.
The Board looks forward to further updates on the topic, including the results from the HRPS Study on Hate and Bias, in the coming months. Our next Board Meeting will be on March 30, 2023.