Hate crimes in Canada saw a 47% jump last year, a government agency said, the largest spike since it began recording such incidents a decade ago.
The findings were published Thursday by Statistics Canada, a government agency that produces statistics on the country’s population, society, culture and economy.
Police reported a total of 2,073 hate crimes in 2017, compared to 1,409 the year before. This was the fourth year in a row that the country saw an increase, but previous jumps were much smaller.
“There were steady but small increases since 2014,” Rebecca Kong, a spokeswoman with Statistics Canada, said. “This is quite a jump.”
The spike was driven largely by an increase in reported hate crimes in Ontario and Quebec, as well as more reports of non-violent hate crimes such as vandalism and graffiti. The report says violent hate crimes decreased from 44% of all hate crimes to 38%.
Of all police-reported hate crimes in 2017, 43% were motivated by race or ethnicity, 41% were motivated by the hate of religion and 10% by sexual orientation, according to the report.
By comparison, an earlier FBI study announced hate crimes in the United States increased by about 17% last year.
Hate crimes against Muslims saw the sharpest increase
The Muslim, Jewish and black populations were targets of the most incidents, the report says. Hate crimes against Muslims more than doubled in in 2017, with a total of 349 reported incidents.
And that, according to Leila Nasr with the National Council of Canadian Muslims, is just the tip of the iceberg.
According to the Statistics Canada, a 2014 General Social Survey on Canadians’ Safety found that of all the people who reported being a victim of a hate-motivated incident, two-thirds did not report it to police.
“People (are afraid of) retaliation and … not being believed. We want to recognize that the data can only tell us so much in that way,” Nasr said.
Encouragement from police may account for such a sharp increase this year, Kong said.
“(The hate crime increase) can be related to an increase in actual incidents,” she said, but also awareness. “The more awareness there is, the more outreach by police to encourage reporting,” and the more willingness there is to report.
A sharp increase after Quebec mosque shooting
The most dramatic spike in reported hate-motivated crimes against Muslims came after the January mosque shooting in Quebec.
“We did see that in the months following that incident there was quite an increase,” Kong said. “February accounted for 25% of reported incidents towards Muslims in that province.”
In many ways, Nasr said, the shooting “set the tone for what transpired throughout the year.”
Incidents such as graffiti, hate-motivated vandalism and other intimidating actions have put the Muslim community on edge, she said.
“We’re watching our back and trying to deal with it,” Nasr said.
Nasr said the organization has tracked other kinds of attacks as well, such as racist slurs, threats and, in more violent cases, beatings of people who appear to be Muslim or from an Arab background.
Facing the hatred
Dozens of other religious leaders and community members gathered to form rings of peace around Canadian mosques after January’s shooting
Muslims did the same after the fatal shooting at a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh, forming protective rings around synagogues throughout Toronto. It’s the collective attitude that Nasr said persists despite the rising hate crimes.
‘We saw very clearly in the last couple of years that despite the hatred directed towards (Muslims), they want to come together with other communities to share the pain and responses to what’s happened,” she said.
And that stems from the “realization that the Muslim community is facing incredible Islamophobia, but we also need to connect our struggles with other communities facing forms of hate and discrimination,” she said.
She blamed the increase largely on polarizing politics, some “home-grown and some coming from other countries.”