The first public inquiry by the British Columbia Human Rights Commissioner’s Office will examine white supremacy and the “disturbing wave of hatred” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The commissioner’s office said in a press release that there has been a significant increase in hate-related incidents in British Columbia since 2020, highlighting the urgent need for a “trauma informed” investigation.

“It is critical that we are all better prepared to prevent and respond to hatred during global health, economic and social crises to protect our human rights in turbulent times,” says Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender.

“Many of us feel uncomfortable recognizing hatred because we want to think of our country as a peaceful and respectful place. The truth is that hatred is here and growing.”

Some changes were made to the British Columbia Human Rights Code last year, giving the commission new power to publicly investigate matters that would promote and protect human rights in British Columbia.

This makes the “Pandemic Hate Investigation” the commission’s first public inquiry since Govender was appointed in September 2019.

Govender’s office says they have been prioritizing tracking hate incidents that are not only racially motivated, but also occur on the basis of “religion, gender identity, disability, homelessness, sexual orientation, poverty or homelessness.”

It is an “opportunity to delve into the human rights implications of a particular incident or problem” and “to make recommendations to address the human rights issues raised,” the office added in a press release.

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It says that after the one-year review, a report on its findings will be released, which will also address how to prevent hatred, particularly during social upheavals such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Fear and ignorance underlie much of the rise in hatred and white supremacy in British Columbia,” Govender added.

“Fighting hate in all its forms requires addressing fear, systemic inequality and ignorance through an evidence-based approach to change.”

The first public inquiry by the #BC Human Rights office will examine #white supremacy and #hate.

To prepare for the investigation, 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 input on their experiences for the investigation.

This Canadian Press report was first published on August 18, 2021.

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