The first public inquiry from British Columbia's Office of the Human Rights Commissioner will examine white supremacy and the "disturbing surge of hate" during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The commissioner's office said in a news release there has been a significant rise in reported hate-related incidents in B.C. since 2020, which highlights an urgent need for a "trauma-informed" investigation.
"It is critical for all of us to be better prepared to prevent and respond to hate during global health, economic and social crises to protect our human rights during turbulent times,” Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender says.
"Many of us are uncomfortable acknowledging hate because we want to think of our country as a peaceful, respectful place. The truth is that hate is here, and it is growing."
Some changes were made last year to B.C.’s Human Rights Code, giving the commission new power to publicly inquire into matters that would promote and protect human rights in B.C.
This makes the "Inquiry into Hate in the Pandemic" the commission's first public investigation since Govender was appointed in September 2019.
Govender's office says they have been prioritizing the tracking hate incidents that are not only racially motivated, but also occur based on "religion, gender identity, disability, Indigeneity, sexual orientation, poverty or homelessness."
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It is an "opportunity to delve deeply into the human rights implications of a particular incident or issue" and "to make recommendations to address the human rights issues raised," the office adds in a news release.
It says after the yearlong examination, a report will be published on its findings, which will also address how to prevent hate, particularly during social upheavals like the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Fear and ignorance underlie much of the rise of hate and white supremacy in B.C.," added Govender.
"Combating hate in all its forms requires addressing fear, systemic inequality and ignorance through an evidence-based approach to change."
To prepare for the inquiry, the commission says it has already consulted with 23 community groups close to the issue.
Later this fall, the commission says it will announce how members of the public can provide insight on their experiences for the inquiry.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 18, 2021.