National frameworks to address hate crime in Canada

This page provides information on the national frameworks to address hate crime in Canada. The information provided here should be viewed alongside data presented on Canada's hate crime report page.

Hate crime recording and data collection

Police-reported hate crimes refer to criminal incidents that, upon investigation by police, are found to have been motivated by hatred toward an identifiable group, as defined in subparagraph 718.2(a)(i) of the Criminal Code of Canada. Hate-motivated incidents are those that target a person or property based on race, colour, national or ethnic origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, language, sex, age, or mental or physical disability, among other characteristics.

Police determine whether or not a crime was motivated by hatred and indicate the type of motivation based on information gathered during the investigation and common national guidelines for record classification. Depending on the level of evidence at the time of the incident, police can record it as either a "suspected" or "confirmed" hate-motivated crime. The hate crime is classified by the perception of the accused (even if this perception is inaccurate), not by the victim's characteristics. As more information is gathered, incidents are reviewed and verified and their status may be reclassified.

The collection of police-reported hate crime data occurs at the time the incident is reported. Police-reported hate crimes have been collected since 2004 through the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Survey. There are three databases for this survey – the incident file, the accused, and the victim file. A detailed analytical article is also produced every year about the hate crime data.

In 2017, the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics and Community Safety Statistics (CCJCSS) at Statistics Canada (CCJS), working together with the Police Information Statistics Committee (POLIS) of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP), amended the definition of founded incidents to include third party reporting. An incident is "founded" if, after police investigation, it is determined that the reported offence did occur or was attempted (even if the charged/suspect chargeable is unknown), or if there is no credible evidence to confirm that the reported incident did not take place. This includes third party reports that fit these criteria.

In 2019, the CCJCSS conducted a consultation with police, civil society and academics to review the existing hate crime data collection categories and identify data gaps in order to ensure that the information collected is relevant. The feedback that the CCJCSS received resulted in updates to the UCR Survey in 2021, including an expanded list of potential motives behind hate crime, new scoring rules and the ability to report more than one hate crime motivation for an offence, thereby addressing intersectionality.

Information on self-reported victimization is collected every five years by the General Social Survey (GSS) on Canadian's Safety (Victimization). The survey asks a sample of Canadians, aged 15 years and older, if they had been a victim of any of the following offences in the preceding 12 months: sexual assault, robbery, physical assault, break and enter, theft of motor vehicles or parts, theft of household property, theft of personal property, and vandalism. If respondents indicate that they had been victimized, they are subsequently asked if they believed that the incident had been motivated by hate and, if so, to state the motivation(s).

Data collected by the GSS differ from police-reported data. Information from the GSS is based on the perceptions of individuals regarding whether or not a crime occurred and what the motivation for the crime may have been. Data on self-reported victimization provide information on incidents that may or may not have come to the attention of police. In contrast, information from police is based on incidents that have been substantiated through investigation. The police use strict legal criteria to determine whether or not a crime is motivated by hate and to indicate the type of motivation. They also look at information gathered during the investigation and adhere to national guidelines to define and classify the incident as a hate crime. Police-reported data also depend on whether victims are willing to report hate crimes to an official body.

Other relevant surveys capturing information related to hate crime, such as discrimination and feelings of safety, include the Survey of Safety in Public and Private Spaces (SSPPS) and the General Social Survey – Social Identity (SI).

Hate crime victim support

Canada has a specialized support system for victims of hate crime.

Support to crime victims in Canada, including hate crime victims, is mostly organized at the level of provinces and territories, which have their own victim-related legislation. Victims of crime are defined in federal law, including the Canadian Criminal Code and the Victims Bill of Rights, which provide the basis for victim support.

Each province and territory uses a different model for victim service delivery, with some providing victim services through the provincial government or the Crown Prosecutor’s Office. Other jurisdictions provide funding to community-based victim service organizations or utilize a volunteer model. Some federal services for victims of crime fall under the mandate of Public Safety Canada, a government structure that aims to ensure co-ordination across all federal departments and agencies responsible for national security and the safety of citizens.

The federal government provides funding to the provinces and territories to assist with the implementation of federal legislation. Federal funding can also be used by jurisdictions to assist in other projects and services that will enhance access to justice for victims and survivors of crime. In addition, the federal government provides financial assistance to eligible victims to attend parole board hearings of the offender. Moreover, the government makes funding available to civil society organizations through the Victims Fund, which supports projects and activities to enhance access to justice for victims and survivors of crime. In addition to the above, all offenders convicted of an offence must also pay a federal victim surcharge – a monetary penalty that is automatically imposed on offenders at the time of sentencing. The money is collected and retained by provincial and territorial governments to help fund programmes and services for victims of crime in the province or territory where the crime occurred.

Policing in Canada is a responsibility of the provinces and territories. As such, each jurisdiction has its own policing legislation regulating how law enforcement officers interact with victims, and the assessment of victims' needs and referral protocols vary among jurisdictions. The provinces and territories have privacy legislation governing the sharing of victim information (including that of hate crime victims) among criminal justice professionals, including provincial police forces. In general, victims of hate crime can use the third party reporting scheme, so that victim service workers may collaborate with the police without providing the victim's personal information.

Federal legislation gives all victims of crime the right to information, protection, participation and to seek restitution. Under the right to protection, any victim may request a testimonial aid (via CCTV, behind a screen or with the support of an accompanying person) when they testify as a witness in a criminal court. Victims can apply for a protection order from the court that will place conditions on the accused.

Victims do not have legal standing in criminal trials in Canada; they may not be represented at trial by their own lawyer and generally cannot bring motions. There are, however, a number of provisions that provide victims with protection: a victim's safety must be considered in bail decisions and, depending on the circumstances, their identity may be protected and offenders may be ordered to pay restitution as part of the sentence. Victims have the right to present a victim impact statement that has to be taken into consideration by the judges. Affected communities may also present a community impact statement. When a plea bargain is reached in a hate crime involving a serious personal injury, the victim is to be informed about the agreement.

Victims of hate crimes may also apply for compensation under the available provincial criminal injuries compensation or financial benefits programmes.

Hate crime capacity building

Many police services, including those serving large Canadian cities, have specialized hate crime units. These units are composed of officers and civilian professionals that have specific training in crimes motivated by hate. Specialized hate crime units help to provide support to front line officers, conduct hate crime-specific investigative work, educate other police officers and the community, and provide outreach to affected communities.