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THUNDER BAY -- This city had the second highest hate-crime rate per capita in the country in 2012, but Statistics Canada says those numbers are the result of better awareness and reporting.
There were more than 1,400 police-reported hate crimes across Canada in 2012, up by 82 from 2011. While the country's 10 largest cities had 63 per cent of those, when broken down per 100,000 Thunder Bay ranks second only to Hamilton.
The Canadian average is 4.1 per 100,000. Thunder Bay's is more than 15.
There was only one reported in the city in 2011. Statistics Canada credits the jump to better reporting and awareness by the Thunder Bay Police Service and the launch of the city's Hate Crimes Awareness Committee.
"It should be noted that, given the relatively small number of hate crimes, small increases in the number of police-reported incidents can have a considerable impact on the percentage change in the number of incidents from one year to the next, as well as on changes in the characteristics of hate crimes. The impact of improved hate crime reporting by police services in Hamilton and Thunder Bay is an example of this," the reports states.
Across Canada in 2012, 33 hate crimes targeted Aboriginals with one-third of them being violent. The most common crime was listed as mischief at 61 per cent.
Victims and the accused tended to be younger in cases involving Aboriginals compared to other ethnicities .
Half of the victims were female and under the age of 24. The accused were 93 per cent male and 24 or under 90 per cent of the time. Around 58 per cent of the time they were identified as an acquaintance of the victim.
Thunder Bay Police Service spokesman Chris Adams said the force now has mechanisms in place for investigating officers to recognize and report crimes that are committed because of hate bias.
"It's a process of education that we've had to go through," he said.
Hateful graffiti used to be reported as mischief even if there were hate-motivated factors behind it.
"Very often that wasn't tracked properly," Adams said.
While it's not always cut-and-dry as to what constitutes a hate crime, Adams said officers now know what to look for hate motivation can now be tracked by Statistics Canada.
"It's what lies beneath them, what motivates them," he said.
People are also more comfortable reporting hate crimes, something Adams credits to awareness campaigns.
City anti-racism advisory committee chair Amina Abu-Bakare agrees.
Like Adams, she's not surprised by the number as reporting methods have improved. While Thunder Bay strives to be racist-free, these stats get a dialogue going.
"If these things are not reported we're going to be living in a bubble, so it's nice to know what we're facing," she said.
"We're hoping next year the numbers will be better."
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