Monday, December 31, 2012

Canada: York cops continue to battle hate crimes

Jeremy Grimaldi
December 30, 2012

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Hate crime targets, Seun Oyinsan and Rita Brown were targets of racism that shocked the GTA. photo: Michael Barrett
When an interracial Newmarket couple had their lives threatened and their cars and home scrawled with racist graffiti, the region gasped.  There was embarrassment and anger locally and throughout the GTA. There was shock. Much of the Toronto media portrayed the incident, which began to unfold a year ago, as the result of small town struggling with growth and diversity. Others, however, including Newmarket Mayor Tony Van Bynen, never wavered from their belief this was not a random act. The latter group was right, as the man convicted of the crimes turned out to be the former partner of Rita Brown, one of the victims, along with her then-partner, Seun Oyinsan.

But in the weeks before charges were laid, one of Canada’s fastest growing communities, in a region expected to have 62 per cent of its residents born outside of Canada by 2031, held its breath.

“Any urban society will have challenges based largely on the fact that you are close to your neighbours and you will impact more and interact more than in rural areas,” Mr. Van Bynen said.

Despite these problems, though, he believes the town saw the ugly face of racism and intolerance, learned from the experience and is now stronger as a result.

“There is strength in our diversity,” he said. “Take a look at the great mosaic emerging in our community — there are 14 different languages in our schools.”

He also referenced the group Newmarket Cares as an organization that came out of the racist ordeal stronger than before. It started by providing security cameras for the family targeted by the racist graffiti. Now, it is raising cash to help the victims of this month’s fire on Timothy Street.

"Although we may never eradicate racism, views change with each new generation", said Det. Brett Kemp, who heads up York Regional Police’s hate crime unit. “There are some (who) hold on to bigoted ideologies and will use this sort of crime to spread the ideology,” he said. “There’s always work to do, including getting out and talking to teachers, educators and students about human rights and equality.”

It’s part of a larger thrust by the police service to tackle the issue. Chief Eric Jolliffe recently finished up a thesis on enhancing the force’s relationship with York’s visible minority communities. Since the incident, Mr. Oyinsan and Ms Brown have separated, something she said is a result, in part, of last year’s incident.

The man convicted of the crime was involved in car crash and has been in hospital since late October. Despite what transpired, Ms Brown said that because he has no family, she is in touch with him and is helping him out.
SOURCE: - a division of Metroland Media Group Ltd.

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