During the 2015 election, Stephen Harper promised to establish a tip line for Canadians to report so-called “barbaric cultural practices”.

Critics argued the policy targeted minorities, dog-whistled to right-wing voters, and would turn neighbours against each other. Many people pointed out a phone number already existed to report crimes: 911.

Harper lost the election and the tip line never saw the light of day.

One month after taking office in 2016, Trump announced a similar hotline, but for victims of crimes perpetrated by immigrants.

Reports from US media outlets shed light on what could’ve happened in Canada if Harper’s tip line existed.

A report by the Associated Press reports that most calls to the hotline were pranks. Some callers even reported – jokingly – that they witnessed actual aliens. But many of the calls were made to wrongly cause trouble for people of colour.

Critics called the hotline “racist” and a cheap stunt to rile up Trump’s political base and to create the impression that immigrants are criminals. In reality, studies show both immigrants and undocumented immigrants commit fewer crimes than natural-born US citizens.

Particularly troubling are reports that people have weaponized the hotline to target neighbours and minorities.

A report by Splinter in 2017 analyzed call logs from the hotline. Data showed very few calls related to actual instances of crime.

But the call logs findings were deeply troubling. People called in to report on family members, acquaintances, and partners for minor violations; minorities, or those they suspected of being undocumented immigrants; and, people accused of domestic violence hoping to turn ICE against their victims.

The findings from these two stories paint a worrying picture: hotlines like these are not designed to solve a real problem but to weaponize fear and hatred towards immigrants, minorities and fellow citizens, stoking a sense of fear and distrust amongst communities.

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