Calgary man charged in hate crime investigation

CALGARY — A Calgary man is facing charges in an incident police are calling a hate crime, captured on video.

Mark John Koop, 39, has been charged with mischief to property and causing a disturbance.

The investigation started after Otis Chan said a man launched into a verbal tirade at him, while he was sitting in his vehicle in an empty Inglewood parking lot around 9:30 a.m. Monday, finishing some paperwork.

“F* you, you F*ing Chinaman, you need to go back to your country. I looked at him and said, I’m just here doing my job. That’s when the gentleman replied that all you F*ing Chinamen are taking our jobs,” said Chan, who is Canadian-born Chinese.

Chan drove away and parked several blocks down 9th Avenue S.E. and the man followed. He spat on his vehicle several times and kicked the side mirror, which Chan recorded.

“it’s extremely upsetting considering this guy’s a complete stranger,” said Chan. “What happens if he does this to another Asian person or immigrant where they cannot speak English. They can’t defend themselves, or they can’t even speak up.”

“I don’t want the next generation to grow up thinking stuff like this is okay. It’s not okay,” said Chan. “In this day and age that we live in, its all about diversity.”

Calgary police were able to make an arrest with assistance of business owners in the area.

“This incident has been investigated as a hate crime,” said Sr. Constable Craig Collins, Hate Crime Coordinator, with the Calgary Police Service Diversity Unit.

According to Calgary police, hate-motivated crimes are any criminal offence, like assault, theft, vandalism or any other crime, where the offender was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate that is based on one of nine personal characteristics of the victim.

The hate motivation is considered by the courts after a person is found guilty of the crime. If the judge decides during sentencing that hate was a motivation for the offence, it is an aggravating factor that can add to the convicted person’s sentence.

“We take these investigations very seriously. We do rely on citizens of Calgary to bring this information forward to us,” said Collins. “These offences have a larger impact into that community so it isn’t just one person that’s affected it has a wider message which is why we take it really seriously. We put a lot of time and resources into making sure that we investigate it properly.”

Collins said since 2016, Calgary police have seen an increase in hate crimes. In 2015 there were 50 reported cases, in 2018 there were 87. Collins said a number of factors play into that, including encouraging people to come forward and report the incidents to police.

Collins said the public is urged to report the incident to police instead of using social media first.

Collins said free speech is not an absolute right.

“There comes a point where your opinion of free speech will get checked. To walk out and target somebody because of their colour or their sexuality and use offensive language or disturb the peace, you are going to find someone like me knocking on your door and taking them to court so you can explain those actions to the courts,” said Collins.

“Ultimately,” Collins added,  “it’s the court’s decision to decide whether those actions are free speech or whether you cross the line and if you did then there’s a penalty.”

Chan said he is relieved there are charges.

“It actually feels really good and I hope this person gets the help he needs,” said Chan.

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