There’s no doubt that the collective heart of Milton is geared towards helping fellow citizens. How often do we hear of random acts of kindness like someone paying for a complete stranger’s morning coffee in the drivethru lane, locating a lost dog, cat or budgie that has wandered away from home or the donation of clothing and other essentials to families in need. Milton’s reputation is founded on its pay-it-forward culture.
But like many communities, Milton has its share of malevolent hate crimes and behaviours that affect its citizens to greater or lesser degrees. Addressing this aspect of the social fabric is vital according to Kara Hart, Bail Program Manager at the John Howard Society of Peel Halton-Dufferin and Kimberly Cato, Psychotherapist, Founder and CEO of True Roots Counselling Service in Oakville, who together have initiated the Halton Coalition for Prevention of Hate Crimes (HC4PHC) in Halton Region.
HC4PHC is a fledgling organization informs Kara. “HC4PHC started working as a collaborative in December of 2020. We are still very new, but we have been very busy since our inception due to a number of hate-related incidents and crimes throughout the region.”
Assembling the coalition proved to be an easy buy-in for its community members. The HC4PHC Coalition consists of a collaboration of multisystemic stakeholders with a mission
to eradicate hate-motivated crimes and incidents in Halton Region. Local social services, non-profit organizations, government representatives, advocacy groups, cultural organizations, and regional police are working together to support victims and address systems that continue to promote racism and discrimination throughout the region.
The John Howard Society of Peel-Halton-Dufferin (JHSPHD) mission is to empower people and prevent crime. At the John Howard Society of Ontario’s provincial conference in 2019, hate crime and radicalization were resented as priority issues.
Kara adds, “Our research made it clear that we could not do this on our own at the local level. JHSPHD does not have expertise in treatment of victims and trauma.”
“After working with Kimberly Cato on a number of other committees, I approached her to see if she was interested in partnering with us to launch a multi-systemic coalition. Fortunately, Kimberly said ‘yes’ and she brings a wealth of knowledge about treating victims and turning trauma into triumph.”
For Kimberly, her participation in HC4PHC stems from her own personal experience with hate as an 8 year old Black child in 1974. Moving into their new home in Oakville, the Cato family was confronted by graffitirendered racial slur broadsided on the front of the house that made it plain that her family was not welcome in the community.
“That incident definitely played a part in my interest in psychotherapy. Now, meeting people at the point of their crisis and giving them tools and strategies to overcome adversity has been my personal mission and a founding principle of my agency where we meet people overwhelmed and blindsided by life-altering circumstances and assist them to transform their trauma into triumph.”
Due in part to the pandemic, 2020 was an extremely unstable year and as statistics have reported, there appears to be a common increase in hate crimes and incidents across the world. Halton, in particular, saw a 160% increase compared to 2019.
Determining the prevalence of hate crimes in Halton is hard to pin down but experts indicate that less than one third of victims report hate crimes or incidents to police. Canada, currently, only collects data for police reported hate crimes.
Hate-motivated behaviour can include slurs, spitting on someone, assault, handing out hateful literature, mischief related offenses like spray painting or graffiti, harassment, chasing or following someone, telling an offensive joke, and more.
HC4PHC will be launching a regionwide survey of Halton residents within the next week to determine the prevalence of hate- motivated behaviour and crime in the region. The survey will be open for approximately one month and will be accessible through HC4PHC’s social media for any Halton resident over the age of 18. More details about the survey can
be accessed at the HC4PHC website http://hc4phc.org Eradicating hate and making Halton a safe place for all is going to require everyone’s efforts from the federal government to the average Halton resident and is a way forward that both Kara and Kimberly espouse.
“If you are a business owner, consider adopting strong diversity, equity, and inclusion policies. If you are a parent, advocate for the racialized kids in your child’s school who keep getting pushed to the margins. Vote for politicians who acknowledge that racism, prejudice, and hate are alive and well in Canada, Ontario, and Halton, and who recognize that decolonization of all systems is the only way to completely eradicate hate.”