‘Astounding’ one in four B.C. residents affected by hate, violence during pandemic: poll

March 5, 2022

By Vancouver Sun |

A new poll suggests one in four B.C. residents have been impacted by hate rhetoric or violence during the pandemic, in what B.C.’s human rights commissioner calls a disturbing trend.

The Research Co. poll, conducted for the B.C. Office of the Human Rights Commission, found nine per cent of respondents directly experienced a hateful action during the pandemic, including 20 per cent of Indigenous respondents, and 15 per cent of East Asian origin.

Twenty-six per cent of respondents witnessed hate rhetoric or violence concerning the pandemic. Of those who witnessed a hate incident, 50 per cent were youth between the ages of 18 and 24, while 16 per cent have been affected by hate incidents involving racism, according to the poll.

“Those are astounding numbers that are going to have long-term effects on our population,” commissioner Kasari Govender said Wednesday.

Govender doesn’t know why so many young people are witnessing incidents of hate but said it could have something to do with them spending more time online.

“While certainly hate is not new in online spaces, there are all kinds of reasons why hate is spewed online and it can be spread so widely online,” she said.

“It is an ugly and disturbing trend. Some members of our communities are being treated as less than human and therefore somehow deserving of vitriol and violence. It is devastating and unacceptable.”

The commission launched its year-long inquiry in August 2021. The inquiry examined not only racism and racial hate, but also hate directed at groups protected under B.C.’s Human Rights Code — including hate perpetuated on the basis of religion, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation, poverty or homelessness.

For the purpose of the study, the commission is intentionally using the term “hate incidents” to assess Criminal Code or B.C. Human Rights Code violations for hate crimes, said Govender.

Govender said the definition of hate includes “actions and speech that are rooted in prejudice that in the view of the person who experiences or witnesses it, are because of a personal characteristic, for example race, religion, gender. And secondly that the action or speech is intended to or does harm that person or group.”

This includes incidents of hate that happen at home or online, added Govender.

British Columbians who have witnessed or experienced such incidents during the pandemic are asked to fill out a confidential, online survey at bchumanrights.ca/hate-survey.

The hate incident experienced or witnessed does not have to be pandemic-related but must have occurred during the pandemic.

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