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Hate speech: an impetus that leads to hate crime

May 26, 2020

COVID-19 is an unprecedented crisis that has given rise to unprecedented civic collaboration and cooperation. In Saskatchewan, and around the world, there has been an outpouring of support and solidarity. Many people, often strangers to each other, are connecting in ways they have rarely connected before, reaching out and helping the most vulnerable members of the community.

At the same time, however, the COVID-19 pandemic has also given rise to a corrosive wave of misinformation and hate.  Online, anti-Asian and anti-Semetic sentiment is swelling. Incidents of hate have become so virulent that Facebook, the world’s largest social media company, deleted 9.6 million posts containing hate speech in the past quarter. That is up from 5.7 million deletions in the prior period. Facebook has also removed approximately 4.7 million posts by hate organizations compared to 1.6 million removals last quarter.

This proliferation of online hate and misinformation has translated into real world violence.

In the United Kingdom, hate crimes against Asian communities have increased by more than 20 percent during the COVID-19 crisis. The Vancouver Police Department recently reported a significant, eightfold increase in hate crimes, with 29 cases of anti-Asian hate crimes reported since the pandemic hit.

Closer to home, last week in Saskatoon, a 15-year-old Asian-Canadian was allegedly subjected to racial slurs connected to the coronavirus before being physically assaulted while riding his bike through Bishop James Mahoney Park.

Two weeks prior to that, three buildings in Saskatoon were vandalized with hateful, homophobic graffiti.

I have said this before, but it merits saying again: Hate speech is the impetus that leads to hate crime. The two are intrinsically linked. Violent, hateful acts do not occur in a vacuum.

We cannot allow hate speech to go unchecked or unchallenged. The Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission addresses hate and discrimination in what are often called the social areas of life – such as employment, education, and public services – through complaints, public education, and the courts.

Collectively, as a people and a province, we need to stand up and speak out. It is the responsibility of the entire community to confront hate in all its forms. As members of one human family, we have an obligation to do what is right. We have to choose understanding over ignorance, inclusion over division, and respect over hate.




David M. Arnot, Chief Commissioner
Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission