British Columbia

B.C. had the highest rate of hate crimes in the country during first year of COVID-19 pandemic

Statistics Canada data shows while police-reported crimes targeting race or ethnicity rose across Canada in 2020, British Columbians had the highest incident rate adjusted for population.

Statistics Canada data shows crimes targeting race or ethnicity almost doubled Canada-wide in 2020

People rally at the Vancouver Art Gallery in March 2021 to express their concern about a sharp rise in anti-Asian hate since the start of the pandemic. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Data from the federal government released Thursday shows police-reported hate crimes spiked sharply across the country during the first year of the pandemic and that British Columbians had the highest rate.

A detailed analysis on the number of hate crimes in 2020 published by Statistics Canada, shows them rising 37 per cent overall in Canada from 2019, with police reporting a total of 2,669 that year. In B.C., they rose 60 per cent and, when adjusted for population, the incident rate was higher than any other province or territory.

B.C. had 198 reported hate-crimes in 2020, which breaks down to about 10 incidents per 100,000 people. Ontario is second, with an incident rate of 7.9.

Nationally, 2020 had the highest number of police-reported hate crimes since comparable data became available in 2009. The data also shows crimes targeting race or ethnicity almost doubled in 2020 compared to 2019.

Dozens of people hold up signs reading 'Defund the VPD' and 'All Black Lives Matter', among other signs, at a giant rally.
People march in downtown Vancouver against anti-Black racism in June 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Statistics Canada says the pandemic further exposed and exacerbated issues related to community safety and discrimination in Canada, including hate crime.

According to a crowdsourcing survey conducted by the federal agency early in the pandemic, respondents belonging to visible minority groups were three times more likely to have perceived an increase in race-based harassment or attacks compared with the rest of the population. Asian respondents felt the most at risk.

In July 2021, more than half of Asian Canadians surveyed by the Angus Reid Institute said they had suffered discrimination over the past year. In Vancouver, police said anti-Asian hate crimes increased 717 per cent during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Participants hold signs at a rally against Asian hate outside the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg on Saturday, March 27, 2021. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

The increase did not happen right away. The data indicates that when initial lockdowns were in place, the numbers were lower in the first month and a half of the pandemic than in 2019. They then rose rapidly between May and December and 43 per cent of them were violent.

Hate crimes targeting Indigenous people more than doubled nationally but accounted for only three per cent of police-reported crimes across Canada. 

According to Statistics Canada, self-reported data indicates that rates of violent victimization among Indigenous people were more than double that among non-Indigenous people, but also showed that Indigenous people have lower confidence in police, the justice system and other institutions than their non-Indigenous counterparts.

Hate crimes targeting religion actually declined 16 per cent from 2019. The decrease  was primarily because hate crimes targeting the Muslim population dropped by 55 per cent in Canada in 2020, from 182 incidents to 82 incidents. In contrast, crimes against Jewish people rose five per cent.

Crimes targeting an individual because of their sexual orientation were down by two per cent. However, violent crimes accounted for almost 58 per cent of hate crimes targeting a sexual orientation compared to 20 per cent in crimes targeting religion and 47 per cent of those targeting race or ethnicity.