The group that crafted a new hate crime protocol for Revelstoke is asking the city change its Community Vision to recognize diversity and identify a permanent community advocate to address hate-based incidents.
“We need a permanent role either within the city or within one of our community organizations people can go to if they’re having problems,” Laura Stovel told council last week.
Stovel and Jill Zacharias, the city’s social development coordinator, presented the new hate crime protocol developed by the city’s Social Development Committee to city council and staff last Tuesday, Dec 8.
“This project really speaks to over-arching goals in our Community Vision, our Official Community Plan, and the Integrated Community Sustainability Plan, to Revelstoke becoming a diverse, inclusive and welcoming community,” said Zacharias.
The protocol, which Stovel was contracted to write with a grant from the Columbia Basin Trust, is a 19-page document that looks at why the protocol is needed, as well as what steps should be taken to address hate-based incidents.
The report looks at incidents of racism and bullying in schools, workplaces and the community. They include children getting bullied, visible minorities being harassed at work, and incidents of assault.
“Incidents … can leave minorities and their loved ones feeling isolated, frustrated and helpless,” states the report. “When complaints are taken seriously… minorities feel that the community supports them. When complainants are regarded as overreacting, victims do not feel heard or respected.”
Stovel told council education was key to addressing these incidents.
“It’s not that people do things out of bad intent,” said Stovel. “Most of the times they just haven’t thought about it. Education is an approach to be proactive, to make sure we don’t have these incidents happening.”
She said organizations – be it schools, businesses or government – should look at their policies and ensure incidents are promptly addressed. “Encourage transparency in the system so when they come with a complaint, they can see what the response is,” she said.
One theme that came up frequently was that of “empowering bystanders,” said Stovel. People should not be afraid to come forward if they witness hate-based incidents.
The protocol includes a flow-chart indicating how incidents should be dealt with. It says an incident should be reported to the most appropriate person, but if it’s not dealt with, a community advocate and the RCMP should be notified.
Stovel asked that a city staff person take on the advocate position, however it was suggested by councillor Linda Nixon that this be a role Community Connections takes on.
The protocol also asks that the Community Vision be modified to include recognition of diversity. “It talks about personal safety and security, but doesn’t talk about diversity,” said Stovel.
Lastly, the report recommends the city modify its graffiti bylaw to ensure homophobic or racist graffiti is removed as quickly as possible and that the targets of that graffiti are supported.
Council asked staff to report back on the feasibility of implementing the recommendations.
You can read the protocol on the Review website.