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Magazine report spurs police to review hate crime stats

Published on

Troy Shantz

Sarnia Police aren’t disputing the math behind a Maclean’s magazine story that ranked Sarnia second among Canadian cities for hate crimes.

But the statistics don’t tell the whole story, they say.

Maclean’s cited Statistics Canada data to report Sarnia had 16.1 hate crimes per 100,000 people in 2017, a 70% increase from 9.5 incidents per 100,000 the previous year.

Sarnia, with a population of 71,594, had seven incidents police recorded in 2016 as hate crimes, and 12 more the following year.

One of the 2017 incidents involved a swastika spray painted on the road. Because that mischief investigation involved different officers it was recorded as four separate hate crimes, a police review determined.

One person was arrested for assault in 2016 and another person in 2017. In both cases, the individual had mental health issues and lashed out “randomly” during the altercation, police said.

Chief Norm Hansen said each case need to be examined on an individual basis.

“I’m certainly not downplaying the stats. But it’s how you interpret the numbers.”

Other hate crimes recorded involved slurs directed toward race, religion, or sexual orientation.

One stemmed from a business owner who denied a customer enter with their seeing-eye dog out of fear the dog would damage objects, police said.

One incident involved a racial slur etched into an apartment door. In another, someone used gas to burn the shape of a cross on the grass of a golf course.

“I don’t think it’s something for us to be panicking about but it’s certainly an alarming statistic,” Hansen said. “We don’t want to see that increase at all.”

According to the Criminal Code, hate crimes are directed at groups or individuals based on gender, race, religion, disability or sexual orientation, and can be violent or non-violent.

Canada has 2,073 reported hate crimes last year, an increase of 47%, according to Statistics Canada.

In the Maclean’s article, Sarnia’s ranked second behind only Thunder Bay, which had 8.6 hate crimes per 100,000 in 2016 and 18.1 in 2017.



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