By TOM GODFREY
There were solemn speeches, protests and a slight dip in hate crime in Toronto as we celebrated the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination this week.
The day is observed on March 21 worldwide. It was on that bloody day in 1960 that South African police opened fire and killed 69 people in a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville over apartheid pass laws.
The bloodshed was observed as a special day by the UN in 1966 and officials warn that more than 50 years later the racial divide worldwide is not getting any better.
Here, members of Black Lives Matter have taken their racial discrimination protests to Toronto Police Headquarters, where they are calling for an inquest into the death Andrew Loku, a mentally ill man who was shot by police officers last year.
This year, officials claim the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis, inflamed U.S. presidential election rhetoric citing a wall with Mexico and the deportation of Muslims have caused hard feelings against some marginalized communities.
No city it seems is left untouched by the scourge of racism. Here in Toronto, police statistics show that hate crimes decreased in general but spiked against Muslims.
Hate crimes were down by more than eight per cent in 2015 but Toronto police said there was an increase in incidents targeting the Muslim community that coincided with the arrival of Syrian refugees, according to the report by the force’s Hate Crime Unit.
The annual Hate Crime Statistics that was released last week said there were 134 incidents that were categorized as hate crimes in 2015, which represents an 8.2 per cent drop from 2014.
Police noted an increase in hate crimes targeting the Muslim community, specifically during the month of November when the first of 25,000 Syrian refugees sponsored by the federal government began landing in Canada, the report says.
“This trend may be attributed to negative backlash following the attacks in Paris, France and the government’s refugee resettlement plan,” the report noted, adding the most common hate crimes included mischief to property, assault and criminal harassment.
It said Toronto’s Jewish community is the most victimized group when it came to mischief to property, while the LGBTQ community was the most victimized when it came to assault occurrences and the Muslim community was the most victimized in terms of criminal harassment occurrences.
Only 19 people were arrested in connection with the 134 incidents in 2015, police said.
There were a number of high-profile incidents in which the hijabs of Muslim women were forcibly removed by thugs, including one incident that occurred on the TTC. There were incidents of verbal attacks against Muslims and a mosque was set afire resulting in minor damage.
Not included in the report were the many cases in which young Black and brown-skinned men were carded during street checks in which their personal information were kept by police in databases.
Black Lives Matter and the community are calling for and expect any day now new laws by the Ontario government to hopefully stop the carding of youths by police.
Even though the incidents of racism are down in Toronto, discrimination is still alive and thriving in the U.S. and other countries in Europe.
Mutuma Ruteere, Special Rapporteur of a UN Human Rights Council, warned that the world is witnessing an alarming increase in hate and xenophobic speech.
“Fifteen years after the Durban Conference very little progress has been made in tackling racism, afrophobia, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance,” Ruteere said in a speech to mark the day.
UN officials are concerned by recent calls by politicians and officials for the mass arrest and deportation of foreigners.
“This sort of behaviour encourages acts of violence against vulnerable people,” the UN said.
We cannot be equals when studies show that right here Black males are three times more likely than Whites to be pulled over by police; the unemployment rate for visible minorities is 9.9 per cent compared to 7.3 per cent for non-racial workers and 55 per cent of Canadians believe we have overcome racism.