For many, it may come as a shock to find out that Canada’s biggest hate-crime capitals are three Ontario university towns. Kingston, London and Guelph boast the country’s highest rates of police-reported hate crimes, according to Statistics Canada.
But Barbara Perry, a professor and associate dean of social sciences at the University of Ontario Technical Institute in Oshawa, Ont., isn’t that surprised. All three populations have traditionally been homogeneous—white, Christian and English-speaking. And, says Perry, “like many other communities, they’re experiencing a lot of fairly rapid demographic change. These sorts of relatively small cities are struggling to come to grips with these shifts.” Guelph and London tied for first at 8.2 hate crimes per 100,000 citizens in 2008. And Kingston followed with a rate of 7.7 per 100,000. (Among Canada’s 10 biggest cities, Vancouver and Hamilton ranked the highest with a rate of 6.3 per 100,000.)
The presence of post-secondary schools, says Perry, can be a double-edged sword. Although those in university and college towns are likely to be better educated, roughly six out of 10 people charged with hate crimes were between the ages of 12 to 22. “Perhaps the victims themselves are more aware of their rights,” says Perry, “but I also think more youth means more offending.”
Since hate-crimes, which can include crimes motivated by race, religion or sexual orientation, are generally underreported, some experts see a silver lining in a city’s higher rates. Perry says it may have something to do with a greater awareness among citizens. Or, she says, perhaps the police are better trained and more perpetrators are being brought to justice.