“Don’t go away until the racist has left. Don’t leave them with the thought that you are scared of them,” says Moussa Magassa, Human Rights Educator and Social Justice Associate Faculty at University of Victoria
The city of Victoria is becoming a more diverse and multicultural community. The city is home to newcomers and established permanent residents from around the world, however, a few incidents of hate against certain communities have been reported in the past few years and we need to work together to combat racism and hate.
Over the last five years, the Victoria Police Department (VicPD) has received more reports of hate and bias crimes, including graffiti, vandalism and hate propaganda. Victoria police records indicate at least 11 reported hate crimes in 2017 and that number increased to 18 in 2018 and an all time high of 22 in 2019.
“I think it would be fair to say that the amount of increase doesn’t lead me to believe that hate crimes are [necessarily] happening more frequently,” says Robert Horne, Hate Crimes Coordinator at Victoria Police Department. “I would infer that we have had a population increase and therefore an increase in the number of people willing to come forward to register complaints.”
However, incidents of hate crimes are often under reported as some people don’t identify them as a crime or may feel reluctant to report it to authorities. Moussa Magassa, Human Rights Educator and Social Justice Associate Faculty at University of Victoria, says hate crimes include using hateful language and threats against a specific community or ethnicity.
“People who experience hate crime often do not know their rights or how to go about reporting such a crime,” says Magassa.
Magassa shared a personal account of hate which opened his eyes to the gravity of such incidents when he was heckled and intimidated by a person on public transport in Vancouver.
“I was reading a book when a white man pulled the book away from me and began stating how lucky I was to live in Canada and study, instead of living in a place where bombs are blowing all over the place,” says Magassa. “He kept repeating the fact that I was fortunate to live in Canada.”
Magassa was disappointed that nobody on the bus dared to speak up against the man.
“During incidents of hate motivated by racism, the perpetrator feels they are able to get away with it. It benefits them psychologically and emotionally,” Magassa says. “It also feeds their ego and gives them a sense of power.”
Magassa believes in being courageous and acting accordingly: “Don’t go away until the racist has left. Don’t leave them with the thought that you are scared of them.”
As a precautionary measure for the victims of hate, Magassa says one must speak in a polite manner to the perpetrator and avoid name calling. He adds that the victim must report such incidents to the police or Organizing Against Racism and Hate (OARH). In a further step, the victim could request people who saw the incident to stand as witnesses.
“It is important that the witness know that they are supporting the victim,” says Magassa. “The victim must take the lead and the witness must only act as a support and follow them.”
Many communities face bias or hate crimes with the Jewish community topping the list followed by the Muslim, Black, and LGBTQ+ communities, but no community is completely exempt from these actions.
“We encourage people to report such incidents to the police by dialing 911 or the non-emergency number 250-995-7654 if a person feels at risk at any point of time,” says Robert Horne.
The Victoria Police Department has a department designated to deal exclusively with incidents of hate and racism. That department has also begun preparing a safety plan for places of worship, including temples, mosques, synagogues and churches by meeting with the community members. Additionally, a person may also flag a police vehicle passing by and speak to the officer to report an incident of hate.
Article by Karishma Konikkara
ICA is committed to providing resources, workshops and forums to break down barriers across cultures and combat racism. To learn about future programs, contact ICA at (250) 388-4728.