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Montreal, September 25, 2019 — Responding to findings of the research report released yesterday by the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission, CRARR stresses the urgent need to act in response to hate acts and crimes in Quebec.

CRARR congratulates the Commission on having carried out this major research, which once again proves the need for authorities to adopt concrete measures to inform and support victims, train police officers and fight hate on the Internet, including social media. The increase of hate crimes in Quebec (the increase is higher in Quebec between 2015 and 2017 when compared to the rest of Canada) is now undeniable, particularly crimes of an anti-Black, anti-Arab, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and xenophobic nature.

These acts of hatred based on race, ethnic or national origin and religion, which the Commission considers to be "a serious form of discrimination that undermines equality and a sense of well-being in society", challenge the fundamental values of diversity, equality and freedom, and threaten public safety and social cohesion in Quebec.

The Commission report describes many familiar issues, notably, the fact that few victims file complaints with the police and lack confidence in the justice system. Systemic barriers in access to justice for victims of hate crimes, especially Black, Arab and immigrant women and their children, must be identified and addressed.

From this perspective, CRARR hopes that the Commission's recommendations to the Quebec Government will be promptly addressed by the ministries and agencies concerned.

However, CRARR remains perplexed by the failure of the report to mention the roles and responsibilities of the Department of Justice and the Crown in prosecuting perpetrators of hate crimes. These agencies have a key role to play on this issue.

CRARR also notes the fact that in its report, the Commission limits its role and commitment to education, training and cooperation in the implementation of recommended measures against hate acts, while remaining silent on its mandate to investigate complaints and provide effective protection to victims of discrimination and hate.

Over the past three years, CRARR has identified critical barriers within the Commission in the handling of complaints it files on behalf of adult and child victims of hate, such as:

❏ Excessive delays in responding to complaints at the intake level. In one case last year, CRARR urged, without success, the Commission’s President to exceptionally grant accelerated intervention in a complaint of racist and xenophobic harassment involving a Saint-Eustache Muslim/Arab family with children under the age of ten. The Commission then took 10 months for a first meeting with the victims; in that 10-month period, the family had to sell the house and leave the neighbourhood to go live safely elsewhere.

❏ Investigations, even in cases with simple facts, which take up to 5 years. It now takes one year to have an investigator assigned to a complaint;

❏ Letting victims of discrimination go, without legal representation and at their own expense, before the Human Rights Tribunal, if the Commission does not consider the case to be a matter of "public interest" and represent them for free. This is the case of a unilingual English-speaking disabled Black man in his sixties, on social assistance and victim of violent racist assaults, who last year had to abandon his case because of lack of resources;

❏ The tendency not to interview and hear child victims or witnesses of discrimination, despite clear obligations under the International Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Finally, CRARR notes the inadequate reference to anti-Black racism in the report, when the Black community is particularly vulnerable to hate crimes and acts, an oversight that should be corrected in anti-hate measures to be adopted in this International Decade of People of African Descent.

"To more effectively combat hate, the Commission must conduct rapid interventions and investigations, and seek, before the Human Rights Tribunal, tough remedies with heavy financial and social consequences," said CRARR's Executive Director, Fo Niemi.

CRARR currently represents approximately ten Black and Arab children and youth who are victims of discrimination and hate in different sectors, including the educational sector, before the Commission. In several cases, investigations have been ongoing for more than two years, with no decisions expected before 2021.