On the surface, a gang of white boys piling on one black boy sure looked like it could be a hate crime.
As it turns out, there was more to the story regarding the April 16 attack in an Edmonton schoolyard.
It wasn’t a fair fight, but a police investigation determined it was also not a hate crime.
A video of the incident, during which the 14-year-old was swarmed and beaten is painful to watch. It made local news and the “racist” incident was featured on the CBC The National.
That seven boys, all aged 14 but for one 12-year-old, attacked one boy is profoundly disturbing. Whoever stood back to video this is just as guilty as his bully buddies who kicked, punched and put the victim in a chokehold.
Predictably, some swiftly concluded this attack was purely driven by racial hatred. The facts be damned.
They didn’t talk to the boys involved.
But police did.
The hate crimes unit concluded this incident didn’t meet the Criminal Code criteria for a hate crime.
“There is still not sufficient evidence that this event was motivated by hate bias or prejudice toward the complainant’s race,” said Edmonton Police Service chief Dale McFee. “As such, it does not currently meet the Criminal Code threshold for a hate-motivated crime.”
During the melee one of the boys yelled out the nasty N-word. McFee rightfully acknowledged this as “highly inappropriate” but not sufficient to meet hate crime standards.
Police discovered the boys had a troubled history but didn’t elaborate.
“Our investigation currently shows this began as a consensual schoolyard fight and was part of an ongoing dispute between a group of male youths, that reportedly started last year,” said McFee.
Admittedly, McFee’s choice of the word consensual is cringeworthy considering that the victim was grossly outnumbered. McFee opened himself up to criticism and is obliged to explain why police arrived at this conclusion.
Police everywhere are working under a microscope, constantly being accused of discriminating against minorities. With budgets being slashed and calls to defund them, they can’t afford to be careless or callous.
After hearing the results of the investigation, one anti-racism activist with A Fight For Equality insisted it was a hate crime and said charges should be laid against the boys. Essentially, this is a demand for police to ignore the Criminal Code.
Canada cannot ever go down that slippery slope.
Other activists accused police of not getting the zero-tolerance for hate crimes message across.
What are they doing as activists to bring people with all skin colours together and repair relations in communities? How are they helping to teach their children tolerance and that beating up anyone is unacceptable?
Knee-jerk reactions fuel division, create unwarranted fear and anger, and are grossly unfair to victims and perpetrators. To wrongly insist this was hate crime doesn’t help these boys who should be the priority. It ignores the root of why this happened and interferes with determining appropriate punishment. A problem, not honestly addressed, doesn’t get fixed.
The reaction to this incident is symptomatic of a growing Canada-wide problem.
McFee dared to say race wasn’t a factor. This is something Canadians are increasingly afraid to say out loud, even when true.
These days, people who denounce or even question accusations of race-based hate are – sometimes viciously – targeted as racist. That’s a bad thing to be. False accusations can destroy reputations.
Race baiters, seeking to support agendas or personal biases, skillfully use this fear tactic to silence anyone who challenges potentially unfounded claims.
We must cautiously discern between those who earnestly want unity and seek to protect victims of hate and those seeking to serve their own interests.
Yes, there are racists in Canada.
No, Canada’s not a systematically racist country.
When Canadians learn someone has been the victim of a hate crime it tears at their hearts. They generously support activist groups who fundraise off of every incident. Ironic isn’t it?
Moving forward, we must tread carefully on this issue of alleged systematic racism some insist permeates Canada.
Meanwhile, the definition of hate-crime victims sometimes gets confusing.
If seven black boys had attacked one white boy would anyone call it a hate crime? Or would it have been recognized for what it was?
In today’s climate that’s an uncomfortable, but fair, question.
Linda Slobodian is the Manitoba Political Columnist for the Western Standard.