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Fight against hate crimes and racism loses thousands

|Written By Elizabeth Thompson

OTTAWA - Thousands of dollars of federal Justice Department funding to fight racism and hate crimes has been lost, in part because the public and the legal community didn’t know the money was available, according to an internal Justice Department report.

Moreover, the study found that while the department was making progress in areas such as an Internet-hate tip line, it had accomplished very little in other areas such as interventions for perpetrators of hate crime.

The 38-page study focuses on the Justice Department’s component of the federal government’s Action Plan Against Racism announced by former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin’s government in 2005. The action plan is a five-year, $56-million program involving four separate government departments to tackle racism across Canada.

As part of the plan, $6.7 million was allocated to allow the Justice Department to work on three principle areas: addressing race-based issues in the justice system, interventions for victims and perpetrators of hate crimes, and countering Internet-based hate crimes.

However, an evaluation of the program completed in June and copyrighted by the government in November, found that thousands of dollars earmarked for the program never found its way to projects to combat hate crimes and racism.

As a result of administrative problems within the Justice Department and lack of knowledge by the public that funding for justice initiatives was available, there have been “significant lapses” of funding, according to the internal report.

“It appears as though the public is generally unaware that specific funding for anti-racism activities is available through the Department of Justice,” wrote the authors.

For example, at the time of the evaluation, only 11 organizations had applied for racism action-plan grants or contributions through the department’s Justice Partnership and Innovation Program. Of that number, only five had received funding.

“The limited take-up of G&C component has resulted in the provision of only $330,000 or 27 per cent of available funds since the implementation of the action plan,” says the report.

However, the report also notes that Justice Department officials are trying to make people more aware that the funding is available. In its response to the evaluation, the department said all of the grants and contributions funding available for the 2008/09 fiscal year would be spent.

Another problem identified by the evaluation was the length of time it sometimes takes the department to process funding applications. The report cited one case where an applicant applied in August 2007 for funding for a meeting that was to take place in late October. However, the department didn’t approve the funding until Nov. 5, meaning that the original work and room bookings were lost and the applicant had to redo his work.

Administrative problems have also resulted in the program not being able to use all of the money it was originally allocated. For example, the report says the program never received the $50,000 that was allocated for contributions in 2005-06 because the Justice Department did not receive approval for its part of the initiative until Nov. 1, 2005.

The Public Law Policy Section received funds in 2005-06 and 2006-07 to work on racial profiling that included public opinion research. However, because their research coincided with the implementation of the Federal Accountability Act, the section wasn’t able to carry out some of its planned activities and 40 per cent of the funding lapsed, says the report.

The report says the Policy Centre for Victim Issues had funding to bring training on dealing with victims of hate crimes to various jurisdictions and non-governmental organizations. However, at the time of the evaluation, only two groups had taken advantage of the money.

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