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B.C. Prosecution Service introduces ‘hate propaganda’ into crime definitions

Other definitions updated to include things related to conversion therapy, anti-Semitism
FILE—B.C. Attorney General Niki Sharma pauses while responding to questions outside B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Monday November 27, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

The British Columbia Prosecution Service has revised its hate crimes policy, expanding definitions and guidance related to hate-motivated offences.

The service says the definitions of hate crime have been updated to include “hate propaganda offences,” such as public incitement of hatred and “wilful promotion of antisemitism,” as well as offences related to “conversion therapy,” a discredited practice that aims to change sexual orientation or gender identity.

The service says in a statement the policy “acknowledges the significant harm caused by hate crimes,” including “grave psychological and social consequences.”

It says the updated policy manual for Crown prosecutors also includes specific guidance for hate crimes targeting Indigenous victims and communities.

B.C. Attorney General Niki Sharma issued a statement applauding the changes, saying they will “go a long way” in supporting efforts to address the significant harms caused by hate crimes and deliver justice to victims and survivors.

Sharma says B.C. is also launching a “racist incident helpline” this spring to assist those who may not feel comfortable reporting directly to police.

“We will also be introducing anti-racism legislation this session to identify and remove the barriers that make it difficult for racialized people to navigate government programs and services,” she says in the statement issued Friday.

In another news release, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth says the changes set clear direction for police officers to “successfully investigate” people who commit hate crimes while supporting victims and survivors.

“British Columbia, like the rest of Canada, has witnessed a worrying rise in police-reported hate crimes over the last several years,” he says, adding, “they remain among the least-reported offences” despite the rising number of incidents.

The changes by the prosecution service follow recent statements by Premier David Eby and the Vancouver Police Department, saying the start of the Israel-Hamas war last October had sparked an increase in hate-motivated acts in the province.

Eby also pointed to an “enormous spike in anti-Asian hatred” during the pandemic and a “worrying” increase in hateful rhetoric toward the LGBTQ+ community.

Sharma says the inclusion of hate propaganda and conversion-therapy offences in particular will help the province hold perpetrators accountable.

The offences related to conversion therapy include promoting or advertising the practice, profiting from it, moving a child out of Canada with the intention of undergoing conversion therapy, or causing anyone else to pursue it.