For immediate publication
Toronto - Chief Commissioner Keith Norton today reiterated a call for increased vigilance and the need to strike a balance between protecting human rights and maintaining public security.
Reflecting on the first anniversary of the tragic events of last September 11th, Mr. Norton stated, "Although we would like to believe that tolerance has become part of our core values, regrettably, incidents of hate and discrimination towards certain community members of our society in the aftermath of last year’s events underline an ongoing need for vigilance."
Statistics indicate that Ontario’s two largest cities have experienced an increase in police-reported hate crimes. In 2001, the Toronto area experienced a 66% increase in hate crimes from the previous year, bringing the number of reported hate crimes to 338, with two-thirds of the incidents targeting people based on race or religion. The largest increase in incidents was against Arab, Muslim and Jewish groups.
Although criminal acts do not fall within the jurisdiction of the Commission, the Preamble to the Human Rights Code clearly sets out that in Ontario, it is public policy to create "a climate of understanding and mutual respect for the dignity and worth of each person so that each person feels a part of the community and able to contribute fully to the development and well-being of the community and the Province."
An important part of the Commission’s mandate is to promote understanding and acceptance, to condemn acts of hatred and to fight against hate crimes. "We should not allow the tragedy of September 11th, 2001 to undermine the spirit of generosity and openness that characterize us as Ontarians. Intolerant behaviour is unacceptable and has no place in our society. We must all fight against such misguided conduct," stated Mr. Norton.
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