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Homophobic Violence in Canada

Pink Blood: Homophobic Violence in Canada
by Douglas Janoff, University of Toronto Press, 2005    

                        
How do police define hate crimes? And why are hate crimes motivated by homophobia charged with controversy? Doug Janoff, a criminologist who works as a policy analyst for the Canadian government (pictured right), has just published the first book in Canada to examine the shattering impact of homophobic violence – and the lacklustre official response to these  crimes. He analyzed 120 homicides and 350 “gay-bashing” assaults that have occurred in Canada since 1990. In spite of Canada’s reputation as a safe haven for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (GLBT) community, Janoff uncovered a blood-stained legacy of extreme violence, ineffective legislation, police brutality and official indifference.
 
Pink Blood demonstrates the criminal justice system’s inability to acknowledge this complex social issue. In one case study, the head of Toronto’s Hate Crime Unit was interviewed after a shocking series of prostitute murders in 1995. Two of the victims were transsexuals who had been shot at point-blank range. Marcello Palma, who was eventually convicted of first-degree murder, told his psychiatrist he wanted to kill street people and “scum.” Yet, the police did not see the connection: Janoff asked the hate crime officer to name the worst case of gay-bashing he had heard of. The officer described an assault in California because the cold-blooded murder of the transsexuals did not fit the police department’s definition of a “hate crime.” 

The book demystifies homophobic violence for a broad range of readers, including researchers, police officers, prosecutors, therapists, social workers, victims and community activists. The first chapter points to the difficulties in gathering this type of research, since many victims feel stigmatized by their sexual orientation and are afraid to report these crimes to the police. The media can also play a role in downplaying this troubling social phenomenon. The second chapter discusses theories of homophobia and hatred, while the third examines the extreme violence that many victims experience – one gay man was stabbed 146 times – and the many settings in which this violence occurs, including public areas, private homes, and prisons. The fourth chapter describes how homophobia is transferred into the courtroom: GLBT victims who manage to survive are further stigmatized when their sexuality is “put on trial,” not unlike the way some rape victims are treated. The fifth chapter focuses on accusations that prosecutors go lightly on gay-related homicides, while the final chapters analyze the ways police attempt – often unsuccessfully – to prevent and track this violence. These approaches are contrasted with community-based safety initiatives.
 
Barry Adam, a sociologist and expert in global GLBT social movements, describes the book as a “landmark study and a highly readable book... that goes beyond official statistics” and predicts Pink Blood will become “the standard reference in the area.” For more details, visit www.pinkblood.ca.
 
 

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