B.C.’s Human Rights Commissioner leads South Okanagan government leaders through the rise of hate

Urging action after hate

B.C.’s Human Rights Commissioner hosted South Okanagan municipal and Indigenous leaders on Wednesday, hoping to see implementations of policies to help tackle the hate shown during the pandemic.

Kasari Govender said she and her office were hosting the event in partnership with the South Okanagan Immigrant Community Services in order to continue the conversation around hate and the rise of hatred during COVID.

In August 2021, Govender launched an inquiry into the rise of hate in B.C. during the COVID-19 pandemic. In March 2023, the Commissioner released her findings and recommendations.

The full inquiry, which is over 400 pages, delves into why hate increased during the pandemic, where hate comes from and what action can be taken to stop hate presently and in future times of crisis.

“I certainly recognize that most people aren't going to be sitting down with the whole report, although I urge you to do that if you have interest in this issue,” Govender said. “We've done a plain language summary on our website. And that's a great place to start and that's just a great place to finish.”

The commissioner said she hopes people will sit down to go through the summary, as her office’s first recommendation begins with the public understanding the impacts.

“Then to look around you and see how these issues show up in your community, support people who are experiencing these issues in your community and where it's safe to do so, confront hate and say this is not okay.”

The goal is to have these conversations circulate in local communities.

“To really spread the word and raise awareness about these issues, and also to engage people in having conversations with each other about where, where they fit into the solutions and addressing the problems that we've raised,” she added.

Leaders from Summerland, Okanagan Falls, Penticton, Oliver, Osoyoos, Keremeos, Hedley, and the Penticton, Osoyoos, Upper Similkameen and Lower Similkameen Indian Bands were invited to attend the presentation from the commissioner on the hate inquiry, along with findings and recommendations.

“I want to communicate the depth of our findings, and in particular, I think many of us through the media have a sense of how this shows up in our communities, but having that sense is different than hearing the hard numbers and hearing about the scope of the problem. We certainly engaged in this work knowing this is an issue in our communities.”

Recommendations range from actions that can be taken by the provincial government, some to police and some to social media companies.

They involve reforming the education system to increase young people's literacy around these issues, a more robust criminal justice system response to hate, which is aimed at Crown prosecutor policies and recommendations aimed at social media companies to increase transparency and accountability.

“Post inquiry, we are tracking the implementation of these recommendations to make sure that data is collected more universally and is made publicly accessible so that everybody can have access to this information and understand the scope of the problem, what and how effective our solutions are being,” Govender said.

To read the full report or summary, visit the BC’s Human Rights Commissioner’s website here.

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