Hate crimes reached all-time high in 2017, Statistics Canada says

The number of police-reported hate crimes reached an all-time high in 2017, largely driven by incidents targeting Muslim, Jewish and black people, according to newly released Statistics Canada data.

Ontario, Quebec had largest increase in number of incidents reported to police

Anti-Semitic graffiti that was spray painted on the door of The Glebe Minyan in Ottawa in 2016 is cleaned up. In 2017, police forces across the country dealt with a record number of hate crimes, Statistics Canada data has found. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

The number of police-reported hate crimes reached an all-time high in 2017, largely driven by incidents targeting Muslim, Jewish and black people, according to Statistics Canada data released Thursday.

The federal agency said hate crimes have been steadily climbing since 2014, but shot up by some 47 per cent 2017, the last year for which data was collected. In total, Canadian police forces reported 2,073 hate crimes – the most since 2009, when data became available.

The increases were largely driven by incidents in Ontario and Quebec, Statistics Canada says. The agency said the increase may have been driven by more people reporting hateful incidents to police, although it says that many likely go unreported.

In the worst incident in the country, six Muslim men were shot to death and others were seriously injured during an attack on a Quebec City mosque in January 2017. This spring, 28-year-old Alexandre Bissonnette pleaded guilty, but said he was not Islamophobic and instead "carried away by fear and a horrible form of despair."

Quebec reported a 50 per cent increase in the number of hate crimes in the month after the mass shooting, mainly driven by incidents with Muslims as the victims.

There was a record set in 2017 for the number of police-reported hate crimes in Canada. (CBC)

Police are also dealing with an increase in smaller incidents like hate-related property crimes. 

Toronto police's hate crime unit said it investigated 186 incidents — largely vandalism and graffiti — in 2017. In nearby Hamilton, police reported an 18 per cent increase in the number of what the force calls hate and bias incidents.

Overall, Ontario saw a 207 per cent increase in hate crimes against Muslims, an 84 per cent increase in crimes against black people and 41 per cent increase on incidents against Jewish people.

Alberta and British Columbia also reported increases in the number of incidents.

Community leaders call increase disturbing

Brittany Andrew-Amofah, of the Toronto-based Urban Alliance on Race Relations, said the increase in hate crimes is making communities feel less safe.

"It's time for political leaders to unequivocally speak out against hate and intolerance and in support of a multicultural society where everyone feels safe to participate and contribute," she said in a news release.

Avi Benlolo, President and CEO of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, issued a statement saying while the new statistics aren't surprising, they are alarming.

"It's disturbing to hear that hate crime continues to increase in Canada and that the Jewish community – a community that is integrated into the Canadian mosaic — is still victimized," he said.

Black people major targets, StatsCan reports

Across Canada, black people remained the most common targets of hate crimes based on race or ethnicity. Some 16 per cent of all incidents involved black victims.

Two per cent of police-reported hate crimes involved Indigenous people, according to the report, but it suggests a large number of all victims — possibly as high as two in three — didn't file reports with authorities.

Hate crimes account for 0.1 per cent of the more than 1.9 million non-traffic crimes reported by Canadian police services in 2017. The agency defines hate crimes as "criminal incidents that, upon investigation by police, are found to have been motivated by hatred toward an identifiable group."

(CBC)