Muslim populations targeted in rising number of police-reported hate crimes, according to Statistics Canada

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      Statistics Canada has released new hate-crime data that suggests that—unsurprisingly—the country is far less tolerant of race, religion, and ethnicity than typically projected in international media.

      In figures publicized yesterday (June 13), the national agency reveals that police-reported hate crimes, which may range from assault and uttering threats to vandalism and graffiti, increased by five percent in Canada in 2015. This is due to a surge in cases where Muslims, Arabs, and West Asians were targeted.

      In total, 1,362 hate crimes were reported in 2015, 67 more than what was recorded the previous year. Of these, 469 were motivated by hatred of a religion—40 more cases than in 2014—while incidents motivated by hatred of a race or ethnicity numbered 641. Women were also more likely to be targeted in cases related to religion.

      Across Canada, there were significant increases in hate crimes against Muslim, Arab, and West Asian populations. Hate crimes against Muslims rose 61 percent, while those against Arabs and West Asians surged 33 percent.

      “Looking back on 2015, it was a difficult year for Canadian Muslims,” said National Council of Canadian Muslims vice chairman Khalid Elgazzar during a press conference in Ottawa yesterday (June 13). “The Canadian Muslim community bore the brunt of sinister political rhetoric surrounding the federal election, which painted Muslims as terrorists or terrorist sympathizers as well as being anti-women.”

      Elgazzar noted that 2015 also saw former Prime Minister Stephen Harper oppose a woman’s right to wear a niqab during a citizenship ceremony, a heated debate over the arrival of Syrian refugees in Canada, and two terrorist attacks in France.

      The Statistics Canada data also revealed that police-reported crimes targeting Jewish and black populations declined 16 percent and six percent from 2014 to 2015, respectively. However, incidents involving these groups remain the most common forms of hate crimes related to religion and race or ethnicity.

      Targeted incidents driven by hatred of sexual orientation, meanwhile, decreased by nine percent from 2014 to 2015. Unfortunately, six in 10 of these reported cases involved assault, making them the most violent among the country’s hate crimes.

      Overall, Vancouver recorded the same amount of hatred-driven incidents in 2015 as in 2014, though the city has seen its fair share of racist, Islamophobic, transphobic, and sexist incidents since then. B.C. was one of only two provinces where the number of police-reported hate crimes did not increase in total.

      It’s important to note, however, that these statistics only include cases that have been reported to the police, which indicate confidence in the country’s police forces and justice system. Police-reported hate crimes are also defined by the Criminal Code of Canada as “criminal incidents that, upon investigation by police, are found to have been motivated by hatred of an identifiable group”, which leaves much agency to law enforcement officials.

      This may explain why only 35 hate crimes against indigenous populations were reported in 2015—even less than cases against white people—despite the prejudice and discrimination the group has been seen to face.

      The terms “gender identity” and “gender expression” are also not included in the Criminal Code of Canada’s definition, meaning that this data does not include hate crimes against non-binary and transgender folks.

      To read the full report from Statistics Canada, visit the agency's website.