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End Racism and Hate: Your Right. Your Responsibility.

Hate Crimes in BC

Every person in British Columbia has a right to feel safe and participate in their community.
Racism and hate makes that impossible by creating fear and exclusion.
We need to work together to end racism and hate in our communities by understanding hate, how to report it and how to step in when we witness it.

Of all forms of criminality, hate crimes are likely to be among the most underreported offences.

Hate Has No Place in BC

Hate Crimes Affect Everyone

It’s important to understand that hate crimes are “message crimes in that the perpetrator is sending a message to the members of a certain group that they are despised, devalued, or unwelcome in a particular neighbourhood, community, school, or workplace.” (American Psychological Association 1998).

The following is provided for general information rather than legal advice or an exhaustive definition of hate crime. In Canada, a hate crime is a criminal offence against a person, group or property that is motivated by the offender’s bias, prejudice, or hate towards anyone belonging to an identifiable group distinguished by race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or on any other similar factor.

In 2018, approximately 44 percent of reported hate crimes in Canada were motivated by race or ethnicity. Race is a term used to classify people into groups based principally on physical traits such as skin colour. Racial categories are not based on science or biology but on differences that society has created, with significant consequences for people’s lives. Racial categories may vary over time and place and can overlap with ethnic, cultural or religious groupings. Ethnicity is typically understood as something we acquire (e.g. common culture, history, language or nationhood).

In 2018, approximately 36 percent of reported hate crimes in Canada were motivated by religion. Religion is any religious denomination, group, sect, or other religiously defined community or system of belief and/or spiritual faith practices. Hate crimes against religious groups are often targeted against communities or individuals based on their perceived or misinterpreted religious attire or affiliation.

In 2018, approximately 1 percent of reported hate crimes involved age, mental and physical disability. One in five Canadians aged 15 and older are estimated to have at least one disability. Victimization research has found that having a disability, and the severity of the disability, are linked to higher levels of victimization. In regard to age, victimization research has found that seniors are more likely than non-seniors to stay home due to the fear of crime, whereas non-seniors are more likely to alter their behaviour in some other way in order to protect themselves.

In 2018, approximately 12 percent of reported hate crimes in Canada were motivated by perceived sexual orientation, while approximately 1 percent were motivated by perceived gender identity. Sexual orientation refers to whom one is sexually and/or romantically attracted. Gender identity refers to a person’s internal and external experience of gender which may be the same or different from their sex at birth. Some victims of hate crimes based on sexual orientation may be transgender individuals targeted because of their perceived sexual orientation.

As Canadian society evolves, other identifiable groups may become defined in law. The addition of “any other similar factor” to the Criminal Code aims to protect sections of the public not yet specified as identifiable groups.

What Is A Hate Crime?

Almost any type of crime committed against a person or property can be motivated by hate. These can include offences like assault, uttering threats, criminal harassment, and mischief, including graffiti.

Section 718.2 of the Criminal Code contains specific sentencing provisions relating to hate crimes. The law provides that when an offence was motivated by hate against an identifiable group, a court may consider that motivation as an aggravating factor to a criminal sentence.

Sections 318 and 319 of the Criminal Code address hate propaganda.

Section 318 makes advocating or promoting genocide a criminal offence.

Section 319(1) makes it a criminal offence to communicate a statement in a public place that incites hate against any identifiable group, where it is likely to lead to a breach of the peace. For example, this offence could occur in the context of a demonstration or protest.

Section 319(2) makes it a criminal offence to communicate statements, other than in private conversation, which willfully promote hate against any identifiable group. This includes statements appearing in print or on the Internet, including in audio or video. This offence can also apply to statements spoken or written in a place accessible to the public, or statements distributed in a place accessible to the public.

It is important to note that hate propaganda laws do not require proof that the communication caused actual hatred.

Section 430 (4.1) of the Criminal Code addresses hate-motivated mischief. When motivated by bias, prejudice or hate, damaging or defacing places of worship, schools, seniors’ residences, or places used for social, cultural or sports activities or events that are primarily used by an identifiable group, is a criminal offence.

The law often balances competing interests and rights. In Canada, Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects fundamental rights to freedom of expression, while Canadian law recognizes a reasonable limit to forms of expression that willfully promote hatred.

The complex considerations around these offences means they are carefully considered by the police and prosecutors. Not all hate-motivated incidents constitute hate crimes or are prosecuted. If the matter warrants referral by police for potential prosecution, Crown counsel independently apply a publicly available policy specific to this topic

A hate incident is a practical way of defining a broader range of behaviour that may or may not meet the definition of “hate crime”. A variety of factors are considered, including the gravity of the behaviour, the nature of the available evidence and public interest considerations, and authorities may decide that some hateful, prejudicial or biased conduct will not be charged or prosecuted.

With all hate incidents, whether ultimately determined criminal or not, victims and community groups have a role to play.


Emotion of an intense and extreme nature that is clearly associated with vilification and detestation. Hatred against identifiable groups thrives on insensitivity, bigotry and destruction of both the target group and of the values of our society. Hatred is an emotion that, if exercised against members of an identifiable group, implies that those individuals are to be despised, scorned, denied respect and made subject to ill treatment on the basis of group affiliation.

Supreme Court of Canada - R. v. Keegstra