Hate crime on the mind on campus and in community

Dr. Barbara Perry, a professor in the faculty of Social Science and Humanities, has written multiple books on hate crime. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Barbara Perry)

Hate crime has been in the media spotlight after eleven lives were lost when a man opened fire in the Tree of Hope synagogue in Pittsburgh a week ago.

UOIT’s Barbara Perry, a professor in the faculty of Social Science and Humanities, answered a call from CBC moments after the shooting.

“They could hardly have cleared the scene by the time I got that call,” says Perry. “It was instantaneous, I think I got it before noon.”

Perry has written multiple books on the subject, including In the Name of Hate: Understanding Hate Crimes, Hate and Bias Crime: A Reader, and The Silent Victims: Hate Crimes Against Native Americans.

She appeared on CBC news as a global hate crime specialist and points to a report done by Stats Canada which shows a 5 per cent increase in hate crime from 2014 to 2015, while 2015 to 2016 saw a three per cent increase.

The studies were based on police-reported hate crimes. In 2016, 1,409 hate crimes were reported, which is 47 more than the previous year. This 3 per cent increase in hate crimes involved incidents targeting South Asians, Arabs and West Asians, Jews and people based on their sexual orientation.

Perry says while she isn’t surprised by the statistics, she still felt the impact of the shooting.

“It was devastating and stunning. It was just pain,” she says. “Not again. How do we get to the point where this is becoming normative? When will it stop?”

She has no problem casting some of the blame on the current political situation in Canada and the United States.

“It’s increasing in this broader culture of hate coming to the floor in North America,” she says. “In large part due to the violent political rhetoric, especially in the Trump administration.”

Perry hosted the third biennial conference of the International Network for Hate Studies May 29 to May 31 at UOIT earlier this year. The conference focussed on combating an “era of hate.”

She says issues with money security in other countries have “added to the fire” of the rise in hate crimes, but blame placed on refugees by the far-right are unfounded.

“This is the problem I have with the far right. Where is the evidence? ” she says.

Perry works as a professor at the North Oshawa campus of UOIT, but the sentiment against hate crime hasn’t stopped there. UOIT has launched a campaign called “Embrace the Immigrants” to combat negative misconceptions about culture.

Shauna Moore, a student success coach at Durham College, lived in Guyana for eight years when she was a child in a community that was primarily Christian, Hindu and Muslim. She became close to a Muslim family who became a “second family” to her.

She says she fears the attack in Pittsburgh will create a further divide, especially for the Muslim community.

“We seem to be divided by religion, nationality, colour,” says Moore. “I recognized at a young age that the religious lines didn’t matter. The closer that people are, the more we get to know people again, those things matter less and less.”

The Muslims Unite for Pittsburgh Synagogue campaign worked to raise 190,000 dollars for victims. Moore says the media needs to report on stories like this to help prevent dividing people.

“When we watch the news, when we listen to some of the other things being thrown at us on social media, we think there is this big divide,” says Moore.

Perry, who has edited multiple series of books on hate crime, says while Canada is largely diverse, the next generation needs to be informed so they can help to combat hatred.

“What’s really important is the role that youth play to challenge hatred and racism,” Perry says. “This is a generation that has grown up with diversity and inclusion. They need to find ways to educate themselves to understand the things they’re seeing and reading.”

Hate crime continues to stay in the limelight as communities come together to deal with the recent tragedy. In Oshawa, the Chabad of Durham Region held a public memorial tribute last Tuesday for the victims of the shooting while another memorial service was held at the Beth Zion synagogue the following Saturday.

Here are find ten ways to fight hate in your community by visiting www.splcenter.org.