Hate crimes jumped sharply in 2017: Statistics Canada

The number of hate crimes reported to Canadian police jumped sharply last year after years of small increases, with new statistics showing incidents targeting blacks, Jews and Muslims accounting for most of the upturn.

Hate crimes targeting black people accounted for 16 per cent of all hate crimes in Canada in 2017, Statistics Canada reported Thursday. They stayed the most common type of race- or ethnicity-related hate crime.

Incidents involving Muslims more than doubled between 2016 and 2017, from 139 incidents to 349, one year after police reported a decrease in hate crimes targeting that population. Overall, hate crimes targeting Muslims accounted for 17 per cent of all incidents — a figure that the National Council of Canadian Muslims said was unsettling but unsurprising.

"The shooting very much set the tone for the increase in hate crimes against Muslims for the remainder of the year," said the NCCM's executive director, Ihsaan Gardee.

That figure includes the Quebec City mosque shooting, which took place in January 2017, and claimed the lives of six Muslim men.

Proportionally, Jews most targeted group

Hate crimes targeting Jews increased for the second consecutive year and accounted for 18 per cent of all hate crimes nationally. Proportionally, Jews were the most targeted group captured in the data.

Harvey Levine, with the Quebec chapter of B'Nai Brith, says instances of vandalism against schools, for instance, are leaving many in his community on edge. 

"Parents who are sending kids to Jewish schools are busy looking over their shoulders," says Levine, who adds he's taken calls from parents wondering if they should send their kids to school on a particular day.

The figures prompted Jewish groups to call on the Liberals to do more to help police fight hate crime, and follow through on a pledge by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to expand a program aimed at helping religious groups pay for security at their facilities.

Hate crimes based on sexual orientation accounted for about one in 10 of all such incidents last year.

Religiously motivated hate crimes increased against Catholics and other groups between 2016 and 2017.

The federal government has been holding closed-door consultations to craft an anti-racism strategy, which is part of $23 million in planned spending over two years for multiculturalism programs.

In all in 2017, police reported 2,073 hate crimes, an increase of 664 from 2016. The increases were largely in Ontario and Quebec.

The agency says the figure is an all-time high since comparable data became available in 2009, but cautions the increases could be related to more reporting rather than an increase in actual incidents.

A larger Statistics Canada survey on victimization from 2014 found that respondents were victims of more than 330,000 incidents they believed to have been motivated by hate. The results of the survey showed that two-thirds of those incidents were not reported to police.

CJAD 800's Matt Gilmour contributed to this report.