Overall, since the Inquiry began in November 2007, the Commission has seen an increase in dialogue about hate activity and awareness of racial profiling around the issue of assaults against Asian Canadian anglers. The Commission has also seen a heightened response to this issue by many organizations. Perhaps in part due to these efforts, the number of reported assaults and incidents involving Asian Canadian anglers has decreased substantially this year.
With heightened understanding around this issue comes increased awareness of the gaps in the system when it comes to responding to hate activity and discrimination. Still troubling is the negative sentiment the Commission heard from some individuals about Asian Canadians taking part in recreational fishing, or in community life.
There are still major gaps relating to institutional responses to hate crimes. Although these are being improved upon through implementation of many of the recommendations of the Hate Crimes Community Working Group, there are still limitations within Ontario’s criminal justice system and social service network to truly be able to address the nature of hate crimes and be able to provide support to victims and accountability for perpetrators. For example, there continues to be a limited patchwork of services available to support victims of hate crime, and difficulties documenting hate crimes on a consistent basis. There continues to be a lack of general awareness and understanding of hate crimes on the part of the public, necessitating a continued focus long past the completion of this Inquiry.
These gaps make continued public messaging around hate crimes all that more important. Through the Inquiry, the Commission learned that many people are largely unaware of who to call to get help, and that people still experience barriers to reporting experiences of harassment or assault to police. The Commission has learned that language barriers were one major obstacle to reporting for people who speak English as a second language. Although the Commission tried to canvass the public as much as possible about incidents of racism and hate against Asian Canadian anglers, it is aware that there are likely many more incidents that remain unreported. It is encouraging, however, to see some organizations prioritizing community engagement as a way to increase trust with affected communities, provide a forum where these issues can be discussed, and raise understanding of the nature of hate activity and discrimination.
The Commission encourages people to call police if they feel they have been a victim of a hate crime or hate activity. Police departments should have access to specialists with knowledge and expertise on hate crimes that can assist in identifying and investigating these incidents. Appendix B includes a list of resources that individuals can access for more information about hate crimes.
With an increasingly diverse society, there is a need for all cities and towns across Ontario to acknowledge the experiences and provide support for victims of discrimination and hate activity. Strong messages on the part of community and organization leaders are one step; commitment to rooting out racism by implementing anti-racism initiatives is another. The relative lack of awareness around this issue underscores the need for all organizations to take strong ongoing stands against hate activity and racial discrimination, and for the province to continue its efforts to facilitate a comprehensive and coordinated response.
The Coalition of Municipalities against Racism and Discrimination is an example of a framework that municipalities can adopt to guide their anti-racism initiatives. The Commission encourages other municipalities to join this network and carry out its goals as one demonstration of their commitment to ongoing anti-racism work.
With the completion of the Inquiry, the Commission will continue to pursue the various projects it has committed to undertaking, such as developing a social marketing campaign and assisting others, where necessary, to complete their commitments. In its future work under its new mandate, the Commission will be available to provide guidance to organizations, municipalities and ministries to relieve tension where it is related to allegations of racism or other human rights-related issues.
It is up to both government and non-government agencies to continue to implement their commitments as Ontario heads into the 2009 spring fishing season. As all organizations have the responsibility to uphold human rights and combat discrimination, the Commission hopes that this Inquiry has been a catalyst for change, in that organizations are better able to understand the nature of racial profiling and remain committed to taking concrete steps to eliminate and prevent it.
The Commission expects that continued progress on all of these initiatives will result in a peaceful and enjoyable season in which everyone can fish without fear.