Blue Line

Albertans urged to contact police if they suspect hate crimes

June 26, 2023  By Justin Sibbet, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

June 26, 2023, Lethbridge, Alta. – Whether it be an offence like vandalism or a verbal assault like uttering of threats, police say hate crimes are becoming more common in Alberta.

Provincial RCMP say the increase in hate incidents include everything from defacing murals to protests getting out of hand.

Alberta RCMP media relations manager, Fraser Logan, says people should come forward if they feel as though they are a victim of a hate crime, even if they are not positive a crime was committed.

“We want to encourage people, should they feel that there was an incident; we are urging people to reach out to the RCMP,” says Logan.

He says police may also be dispatched without a complaint if they believe a situation could cause problems. That includes protests that police reasonably believe could spiral out of control.

“It’s really to maintain the peace. It’s not necessarily what is being protested, it’s more about how something might be protested.”

However, Logan maintains the importance of people’s legal right to a protest.

“Everyone is allowed to have a peaceful protest.”

He notes that a standard picketing protest is fully within the legal options for individuals who may wish to speak their voice.

“Placards and being loud all those things, that is your right, but certain things could cross into criminal territory.”

While recent incidents in the province include the vandalism of pride crosswalks in towns such as Okotoks and Ponoka, Logan says proving a similar case is hate motivated is challenging.

“The investigating (officer) has to make a determination as to motivation. Seeing someone do a burnout on a pride sidewalk, there has to be more to that for them to determine the motivation.”

He says it could be reasonably argued that the burnout on the pride crosswalk was just happenstance because people do burnouts all over the road.

“It’s not necessarily the outcome, but it’s the intent. It’s a lot of mitigating factors.”

Even though charges may not always be laid, Logan says the information provided can still be helpful for future investigations.

“Maybe it’s the same individual who’s making people feel uncomfortable, maybe there’s an aspect of these incidents; this helps us out down the road.”

And a simple report to police can create a safer community and a more streamlined process for future complaints.

“Intelligence gathering is, for statistical purposes, really important for us because it helps us even on our daily patrols.”

Lethbridge Police Service Staff Sergeant Jason Leblanc says, while there may be an increasing number of hate incidents in Alberta, Lethbridge is not seeing a rise itself. He says LPS treats all complaints equally, hate-related incidents or not.

“All investigations are investigated as thoroughly as possible,” says Leblanc.

He says there is new legislation that has changed the landscape across all police departments in Canada when it comes to hate incidents.

“It gets sent to different courts and more specific charges in relation to that. As well, sentencing for those matters, if found guilty, are stricter.”

– Lethbridge Herald

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