Pink Blood: Homophobic Violence in Canada

Description

332 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
$32.95
ISBN 0-8020-8570-9
DDC 362.88'086'640971

Year

2005

Contributor

Reviewed by John Stanley

John Stanley is a senior policy advisor in the Corporate Policy Branch
Management Board Secretariat, Government of Ontario. He is co-editor of
Nation and History: Polish Historians from the Enlightenment to the
Second World War.

Review

Janoff, an independent scholar, sets himself two tasks: to document
homophobic violence in Canada since 1990 and to propose methods for
addressing this violence. It’s only fair to note that he achieves both
his goals.

All who are familiar with this field understand the labour-intensive
work necessary to ferret out data. Janoff has been collecting data since
1992, documenting 400 cases of homophobic violence. He has surveyed 20
police departments and carried out research in all provinces and
territories. As a result, he has unearthed 107 homicide victims related
to homophobia in all provinces, except Newfoundland and Labrador.
(Toronto alone represents one-third of these incidents.) However, he
recognizes that many, perhaps most, homophobic crimes are not reported
to the police for fear of outing oneself, or due to a belief that the
complaint will not be taken seriously, or because of previous experience
of police homophobia. These suspicions are often proved correct: nearly
half of the killers identified went free, were declared insane, or
received a lesser (manslaughter) conviction.

Until recently, society often assumed that when homosexuals were
attacked, they probably deserved it. Homosexuals were viewed as
attracting crime, and the RCMP, for example, routinely spied on
homosexual organizations into the 1970s. Indeed, Janoff’s research
demonstrates that police and even judges routinely ignore the homophobic
impulse of crime committed against gays, lesbians, and transgendered
people. This attitude is present in much scholarly research and even
within the gay and lesbian community. Downplaying or excusing such
violence seems endemic in Canadian society; a specific hate-crime
statute is clearly needed.

The book is not without weaknesses. For example, some researchers will
question Janoff’s assumption that, in the absence of contrary
evidence, when the victim is queer, the reason for a crime must be
homophobia. Readers will also probably be frustrated by the lack of
conclusions anywhere in the book: each chapter ends with a summary, and
the final chapter, labelled “Conclusion,” is actually a prospectus
for legal and social reform. Although Janoff has used some French
sources, they’ve been used sparingly. For example, his sole newspaper
source for Montreal is the English-language Gazette, not the
much-larger-circulation La Presse. It’s likely that Quebec’s
French-language tabloids would have proven a gold mine for his primary
research.

Despite such concerns, this groundbreaking work provides a strong case
for future social change and legal reform. It will become a key resource
for criminologists, lawyers, police, and judges, as well as scholars and
students.

Citation

Janoff, Douglas Victor., “Pink Blood: Homophobic Violence in Canada,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 20, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/30595.