Hate & racism

Updated: February 24, 2022

Vancouver B.C. – More than 1700 people who either witnessed or directly experienced a hate incident have participated in an online survey for the Inquiry into hate during the pandemic.

British Columbians are sharing stories about being assaulted, verbally abused, threatened online and accosted in grocery stores. People report experiencing an erosion of sense of safety and a growing sense of fear and anxiety.

“An important part of what we’ve been hearing is a concern about the normalization of hate. We can’t let this become our new normal,” said Commissioner Kasari Govender. “While the pandemic has made incidents of hate more visible, many in our communities are working to identify solutions and work towards a different future. By speaking up and sharing their stories with the Inquiry, people are taking a stand against hate. Their participation can help to make change,” she continued.

Dozens of organizations and groups have made submissions since the Inquiry was launched last summer. In particular, Indigenous representatives making presentations to the Inquiry shared the disproportionate impact that incidents of hate during the pandemic have had on young people.

“We are hearing that young people in Indigenous communities are feeling disenfranchised and deeply impacted by incidents of hate,” said Commissioner Govender.  “Youth across B.C. also appear to be feeling the worst impacts of the pandemic. In recent polling conducted by our Office, 1 in 4 British Columbians have witnessed an incident of hate during the pandemic, but for youth 18-24, that number skyrockets to more than 50 per cent.”[1]

The intent of the inquiry is to examine hate in all its forms: not only racism and racial hate, but also hate directed at groups on the basis of religion, gender identity, disability, Indigeneity, sexual orientation, poverty, homelessness, or other personal characteristics.

British Columbians who have experienced or witnessed a hate incident are urged to take the survey at bchumanrights.ca/hate-survey before March 6, 2022. It is available in 15 languages, by phone at 1-855-412-1933 or with peer support byemailing inquiry@bchumanrights.ca. You can find more information about these options here.

The information gathered from the surveys and other submissions will guide the Commissioner’s final report and recommendations to address, prevent and eliminate incidents of hate during times of crisis—including the COVID-19 pandemic—and in future.

The Commissioner’s recommendations are expected to be released in early 2023.

Media contact

To request an interview with Commissioner Kasari Govender, please contact Charlotte Kingston, Director, Communications, at media@bchumanrights.ca or 1-250-216-4534.

Media kit

Download our media kit for images of Commissioner Kasari Govender.

About BCOHRC

BC’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner exists to address the root causes of inequality, discrimination and injustice in B.C. by shifting laws, policies, practices and cultures. We do this work through education, research, advocacy, inquiry and monitoring. Learn more at: bchumanrights.ca

About the Commissioner

B.C.’s Human Rights Commissioner, Kasari Govender, started her five-year term on Sept. 3, 2019. Since then, our Office has been working swiftly to build a strong team, to listen deeply to the concerns of British Columbians, to deliver education materials on our rights and responsibilities, to issue policy guidance to protect marginalized communities and to lay a human rights-based foundation for our work. As an independent officer of the Legislature, the Commissioner is uniquely positioned to ensure human rights in B.C. are protected, respected and advanced on a systemic level throughout our society.

About the Inquiry into Hate

In September 2020, legal changes to B.C.’s Human Rights Code gave the Commissioner new broad powers to inquire into matters that would serve to promote or protect human rights in B.C., including through a public inquiry and to report the findings publicly and to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.

A public inquiry is an opportunity to delve deeply into the human rights implications of a particular incident or issue, gather factual and expert evidence, hear directly from those impacted (for example, through witness statements, public hearings or surveys) and make recommendations for how to address the human rights issues raised. An inquiry is not a court of law and cannot make legal findings.

The Inquiry into hate will take the form of a year-long investigation and is the first conducted by an independent human rights commissioner in B.C.  Learn more: hateinquiry.bchumanrights.ca

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[1] Research.co conducted an online survey of 800 B.C. adults for BCOHRC in December 2021. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region. The margin of error is +/- 3.5 percentage points, nineteen times out of twenty.