Reported hate crimes decline in Canada while studies explore roots of homophobia, racism

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Hate crimes appear to be on the decline in Canada, just as university studies are providing more evidence of what are some contributing factors to discriminatory attitudes.

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A new report from Statistics Canada reveals that police-reported hate crimes decreased in 2010.

Canadian police reported 1,401 hate crimes (or 4.1 hate crimes for every 100,000 people) in 2010. This reflected an 18 percent drop from 2009, and followed two consecutive annual decreases.

It's important to note that these statistics are based only crimes reported to police and therefore are only a portion of the hate crimes in Canada. The Statistics Canada website notes that "Self-reported victimization data from Canadians suggest that about one-third (34 percent) of incidents perceived by respondents to have been motivated by hate were reported to police."

The most common motivation for hate crimes was race or ethnicity. There were 70 reported hate crimes (a decrease of 20 percent from the previous year), which accounted for slightly over half of all incidents. Black Canadians were the most targeted ethnic group. With 271 hate crimes reported against them, the amount was significantly higher than Arabs or West Asians (75 incidents), followed by South Asians (67 incidents), which were the second and third most targeted ethnic groups.

The second most frequent motivation for hate crimes was religion, with 395 reported hate crimes (a decline of 17 percent from the previous year). The Jewish faith was the primary target, with 204 incidents reported. Although the number represented a 38 percent decrease, the figure was still markedly more than the next most frequently targeted religious groups: Muslims (52) or Catholics (50).

The rate of reported homophobic attacks remained the same, with 218 hate crimes reported due to sexual orientation.

Canada's largest province, Ontario, had the highest number and rate of hate crimes reported (739, or 5.7 for every 100,000 people). British Columbia had 179 hate crimes reported, with a rate of 4.0 for every 100,000 people, which was on par with the national average of 4.1. Quebec had 214 hate crimes reported, which represented a rate of 2.7 per 100,000 people.

Declining rates in Toronto, Vancouver, and Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo contributed to the overall national decline.

Two recently published university studies have revealed some of the contributing factors to discriminatory attitudes (which can potentially lead to hate crimes).

A UBC study called "Pride and Prejudice: How Feelings About the Self Influence Judgments of Others" published in the April issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin revealed that what people base their sources of pride upon can influence discriminatory attitudes like racism or homophobia.

The study, led by UBC Department of Psychology postdoctoral researcher Claire Ashton-James, involved 1,400 Canadian and American participants. It was based upon findings which demonstrated that pride could be derived from two main sources. Researchers noted that "authentic pride" is founded upon things such as achievements and hard work whereas "hubristic pride" arises from power, domination, money, or nepotism.

According to the researchers, "authentic pride" contributes to self-confidence, leading to the growth of empathy for others and positive attitudes towards stigmatized groups. In contrast, "hubristic pride", based on arrogance and superiority, reduces empathy and fosters prejudices. The former group were found to be less inclined to have racist attitudes compared to the latter.

Another study, conducted by a team from the University of Rochester, the University of Essex, and the University of California and published in the April issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, reaffirmed the notion that homophobes are often closet cases externalizing their own internal conflict with their own homosexual attractions.

What's more, the study also found that parenting style also played an influential role in homophobic attitudes.

In the study, 160 college students in the U.S. and Germany were shown words and pictures on a computer screen and asked to categorize them as gay or straight. They were also asked to freely browse pictures of same-sex and opposite-sex photos to measure which gender they were more attracted to.

Homophobic attitudes were also measured by questionnaires and word-completion tasks.

Researchers found that participants with authoritarian parents had the greatest discrepancy between their reported and implied sexual orientation, in contrast to participants with democratic parents, who were found to be more aligned with their sexuality. The former group were more likely to exhibit hostility towards gay people.

Public figures who have been vocal against gay issues but were caught in gay sex scandals, such as U.S. evangelical pastor Ted Haggard, former Republican politician Larry Craig, and former Young Republican National Federation chairman Glenn Murphy Jr., are possible examples of this dynamic.

You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at twitter.com/cinecraig. You can also follow the Straight's LGBT coverage on Twitter at twitter.com/StraightLGBT.

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