August 9, 2016

Hate to Hope Rally Speaking Notes
Renée Vaugeois
August 6, 2016
Alberta Legislature

My heartfelt thanks to Chevi Rabbitt, all fellow speakers and you who have come to be here with us today.

We are here to recognize what is a heavy, but absolutely, essential issue that we as Edmontonians, Albertans, Canadians and Global Citizens need to be talking about.

Hate is a disease and it is affecting our communities and planet in a way that we all may not realize. It fuels global conflict; it fuels migration; it fuels much of the devastation around our planet today.

For it is xenophobia, fear of the ‘other’, that justifies the use of force, the sale of arms and so much more.  Hate is insidious. It is not just a global problem, as we here all know today; it is right here in our own community.

All of us are aware of the incident affecting our friend Bashir Mohamed this week. What some may consider as just words…. don’t get the bigger picture. How would you feel if your identity were assaulted on a daily basis.

These small acts have big impacts.

Here is what I know about hate.

It hurts.

It breaks a person down.

For some, it breaks them down to the point of retaliation - sometimes violent; or worse, suicide.

We need to remember every time someone is targeted with hateful speech, regardless of if it was a crime, the hurt builds up. It is a disease.

Those of us that don’t experience it on a daily basis and in our daily interactions may not fully understand this. So we disregard it and we don’t get how it impacts those who are really struggling in our community to get by.

Recently, in my role as President of the Alberta Hate Crimes Committee, I spent time in four Alberta communities talking in Friendship Centres about how hate plays out within indigenous communities.

The one thing that concerned me coming into this role was that the stats say only 1 in 10 hate crimes are reported. The stats also say that it is the Muslim, Jewish and LGTBQ community that are most affected by hate crime.  I was concerned that there are communities that have fallen completely off the radar because they don’t report.

These were difficult conversations in the Friendship Centres. It was loud and clear why reporting of hate crime or incidents are not happening within indigenous communities. Quote “no matter what we do or say, we are never believed.” There is no trust that law enforcement would work in their interests or serve to protect them.

We heard that people become reliant on drugs and alcohol to deal with the pain. That hate is something they feel when just trying to fulfill basic needs; or shall I say basic human rights.

Things like going to a store, a necessity for all to get food or clothes, become unwelcome, unfriendly experiences. 

We also heard that people reach the point of retaliation to deal with every day experiences of difference. What may seem to some as a simple joke or word pushes things just a bit too far. We heard young indigenous men are being criminalized for facing derogatory comments in the first place.

I heard that we have so much deep hard work to do in Alberta. Those of us here know this. We carry this burden of solidarity and love so strongly. That is why we are here today.

I knew as soon as I heard about the bicycling incident with Bashir that it could not be considered a hate crime. Calling someone a name is freedom of speech; however this begs to question, when does that cross the line?

It is sad to know that it takes a physical assault or damage to property to be able to react and respond to someone who incites hatred against another based on their race, background, ability, or identity. 
Because it is the small acts that are hurting us all.

Punishable offences under hate law are those that publicly incite hatred through propaganda or violent acts such as assault or damage to property based on an identifiable group. Crimes motivated by hate can receive extended sentencing for the perpetrators.

Some may argue that the recent passing of Ku Klux Klan flyers in Chilliwack BC is a public incitement. However, these flyers do not target any specific group. All in the name of white pride. To me, this is a caution for us to be paying attention and to be talking.

What I heard over social media after the incident with Bashir was a feeling that police fail when it comes to responding to hate. I want to push that and say we fail.

We as society have not made our communities a safe enough, or strong enough, space that we can call people out and do so in a way that is constructive and selfless. We are constantly feeling more of a need to place blame than to really come together and reconcile. 

Bashir inspired us all this week when he met with one of the men from his encounters last Friday and was able to make his case. It was a true act of reconciliation that we need to see more and more every day. Thank you Bashir.

To be able to prosecute a hate crime and to collect the evidence is incredibly challenging. I honour the men within the EPS hate crime unit who work hard every day and devote themselves to ensure those cases they are able to collect evidence on, are successful when they hit the courtroom.

It is important as community members to understand that it is critical to report hate crime AND incidents. Someone who is reported more than once; well, this just makes the case to prosecute for hate crime a whole lot stronger.

The Alberta Hate Crimes Committee is a non-profit coalition of civil society and law enforcement built on the core principle that to address hate crime, we need collaboration of civil society and law enforcement.

AHCC exists to build these relationships and work toward the elimination of hate in our province. It is and will continue to be a long hard journey.

I would also like to point out that it is one of EPS’ officers, Stephen Camp, who was at the forefront of getting AHCC going and is known in Canada as one of the leading experts on Hate Crime. While he is no longer in the unit, we are proud to still have him working with us in AHCC.

I believe that hate is one of our most pressing human rights issues. Locally and globally.
Hate manifests itself through armed conflict, through crime such as human trafficking and so much more.

Next year, at the John Humphrey Centre we are eagerly underway in planning Ignite Change 2017! A Global Gathering for Human Rights. Hate is one of our leading topics that we aim to dig into and affect change. I do hope you will consider joining us.

Thank you so much Chevi for inviting me back to the Hate to Hope Rally this year.  You truly are a guiding light and I think you are pushing important conversation on this topic. Your braveness in recognizing the work of the Edmonton Police Services Hate Crime Unit is incredible at a time when there are many tensions between community and policing. You are loved.