A fortnight after an apparent homophobic attack on a student from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, hundreds of locals showed their support for the victim in a march against homophobia.
Native studies and anthropology Student Chevi Rabbit, 26, was assaulted by three men close to his campus. In the attack, he was robbed of his iPhone and suffered cuts and bruises.
Earlier this week, the NOH8 Edmonton March and Rally, which boasted over 300 confirmed attendees on Facebook, included a march from the university to the Alberta Legislature.
Notable speakers were the university’s Director of Community Relations Michael Phair, Progressive Conservative Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk and the leader of the Alberta Liberal Party, Dr. Raj Sherman. Mr Rabbit was hailed for his bravery and other speakers offered words of encouragement to the local LGBTQ community.
A Canadian statistics survey found hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation were more likely than other crimes of that kind to result in physical injury to the victim. While the police-reported hate crime rate for Canada decreased slightly in 2011 – from five crimes per 100,000 people in 2009 to 4.1 in 2010 – the numbers are still reportedly higher than they were between 2006-2008, according to the Edmonton journal.
Kristopher Wells, chairman of the Sexual Minorities Liaison Committee with the Edmonton Police Service, said the fact that the police department has a dedicated hate crime unit is contributing to awareness:
“This actually contributes a lot to not only internal awareness within the Edmonton Police Service – so that front-line constable is able to identify this and flag it and send it to the unit for follow-up investigation – but also, if that is pretty effective, you will see a rise in reporting because there’s more actual awareness about what is a hate crime.”
The assembly which followed the march closed with Broadway singer and Tony award nominee Michelle Rios’s rendition of Cyndi Lauper’s 1986 hit True Colours and a speech from Mr Rabbit himself. He said that despite what had happened to him, he still saw Edmonton as a safe, liberal place, stating that “Here, it’s okay for you to be your own, unique self.”