Gai Écoute launches online register of homophobic acts
Concerned with the extent of underreported homophobic violence and verbal aggression in Québec, the service wing of the Fondation Émergence, Gai Écoute, today launched an online form to encourage LGBTs to report homophobic acts.
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It is believed to be the first register of its kind in the world, according to Êmergence President Laurent McCutcheon. “We created it in order to find out what the real state of homophobia is. The compilation and analysis of the data will allow us to better understand the issues and to work on prevention,” McCutcheon said at this morning’s press conference.
The Registre d’actes homophobes (RAH) includes an anonymous phone line, internet chat forum, and an online form for people to report violence and discrimination that they encounter based on their sexual orientation. The RAH project will serve both as a tool for keeping a more accurate record of homophobic acts, as well as a way of encouraging LGBTs to report criminal acts to the police. “The majority of homophobic acts are cases of discrimination and prejudice. However, some are also criminal acts and should be declared to the police,” Gai Écoute said in a statement today.
The online form includes boxes to check for discrimination, harassment, and theft, as well as for homophobic insults and homophobia in the media. The anonymous written report can include up to 1000 characters (about 180 words), as well as drop-down menus to provide a description of the aggressor’s gender, age, and ethnic background, (white, black, Asian, or “other”). Those who do not wish to remain completely anonymous can also report incidents via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. A compilation of the register’s data will be released either periodically or at the end of the first 2 years, with statistical tabulation ensured by the newly hired RAH coordinator Benjamin Cerantola.
For the launch of the online register this morning, McCutcheon was joined by Johanne Paquin and Alain Gagnon from the Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM), who spoke on the importance of “calling out” homophobic acts, and encouraged other police outfits in Québec to assist Gai Écoute in promoting the RAH. Gai Écoute begins meeting tomorrow with police representatives from Montréal, Laval, Longueuil, Chicoutimi and elsewhere to determine how to ensure that referrals are being made to the register, and how to share relevant information.
Gai Écoute director Robert Laramée says he hopes the the register will help people stop second-guessing themselves about whether to report an incident. “In spite of all the gains made for legal equality, we nonetheless received 180 calls reporting homophobic acts to our listening line last year,” Laramée says. Gai Écoute has been collaborating since last year with Station 22, the police station in the Village, to maintain a register of the number of cases of “significant” homophobic acts, which in 2011 amounted to 50, officially.
“No matter what the nature of the act was, we say ‘report it’, either with us or with the police or both,” he added, “even if you’re uncertain about whether it was a criminal act or not. We want people to stop wondering where to go to report a homophobic act. We want the police to be able to receive the report, not just just judge it criminal or not,” Laramée explains. The compiled data will also help community organizations understand where these acts are occurring most, whether that be rural or urban areas, in schools or in the workplace.
The RAH project is funded indirectly by the Ministry of Justice, via the Bureau de lutte contre l’homophobie, which was created last year to sponsor projects that support the recognition of LGBT rights. Bureau chief Roger Noël said the register will help paint a more thorough picture of this type of discrimination and violence in Québec.
According to Statistics Canada data from 2010, hate crimes against sexual minorities were the third most common type, after race and religion.
For more information on Gai Écoute’s Registre d’actes homophobes, check out www.homophobia.org