Representatives of Ottawa’s diverse community organizations are welcoming Thursday’s announcement that the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) has relaunched its hate crimes unit.
The OPS, which was the first police service in Canada to form a dedicated hate crimes unit decades ago, had quietly disbanded the formal unit. In an announcement made to community representatives on Thursday, the OPS says it will now add more resources and centralize hate crimes investigations back into one dedicated unit. This will further enhance changes the service made to its online reporting system that make it easier for residents to report hate-motivated incidents.
“We see this move as a big step forward in improving race relations in the city and bringing about the culture change that has been long spoken about by the Ottawa Police Service,” says Ewart Walters, Coordinator of Black Agenda Noir.
Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly said the change, in response to community and stakeholder feedback, includes two new Hate Crime investigators to the Security Intelligence Section to help identify trends and community safety concerns.
“We’re very happy to see the Ottawa Police, under Chief Sloly’s leadership, increase their capacity to address hate crimes, which are on the rise in Ottawa.”says Richard Sharpe of the 613-819 Black Hub. “This is yet another step in addressing systemic discrimination affecting Ottawa’s Black communities and other equity-seeking groups,” says Sharpe.
“It’s hopeful the OPS is committing to more transparency and accountability,” says Amira Elghawaby, a board member with the Canadian Anti-Hate Network. “Communities require regular updates about the nature and number of hate crimes and incidents being reported in our neighbourhoods. This will provide the public with a better grasp of the problem so that we can look for solutions collectively.”
"I am extremely pleased that the Ottawa Police Service has responded to the request of Ottawa's diverse racialized communities and has re-introduced a hate crime section to its operations," said Rawlson King, Councillor for Rideau-Rockcliffe (Ward 13) who was supportive of community efforts. "Adding more resources and centralizing these important investigative functions will increase community safety and continue the effort towards building greater goodwill, strengthen and improve relationships, while concurrently finding ways to build better approaches to serve our communities."
In 2017, the OPS introduced a new method for reporting any hate-motivated incident online at ottawapolice.ca/onlinereporting. This came about after community advocates pointed out the barriers some Ottawa residents faced when they report hate crimes or incidents, including stigma and language barriers. Traditional methods of calling the Police Reporting Unit or reporting incidents at police stations remain.