Let's Fix Canada's Hate Crime Data Problem

StatsCan has released the 2019 police reported hate crime numbers. So once again we need to emphasize that these numbers are NOT a measure of overt hate incidents in Canada. 

Photo credit: Hermes Rivera.

StatsCan has released the 2019 police reported hate crime numbers. So once again we need to emphasize that these numbers are NOT a measure of overt hate incidents in Canada. It’s very limited data. But if you scroll to the bottom, we have the solution.

We know from research we did with Drs. Barbara Perry and Sabreena Ghaffar-Siddiqui, and based on other StatsCan data, that the police reported numbers likely only account for one to five per cent of hate incidents in Canada.

It may have some limited usefulness in pointing to trends, and should be used to hold police accountable for solving those crimes, but it's bad data because it's old and full of methodological issues.

Why is that? Members of many communities don’t go to the police. Even if they do, the police treat many reports as unfounded – they either don’t believe the victim, don't see the point in pursuing the report, or are unsuccessful in their investigations. They only report forward a small subset that they have at least partially successfully investigated. 

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Unfortunately, every year several outlets report on the numbers without this context. And people interpret these numbers, much lower than reality, as an actual measure of hate in Canada and argue either in ignorance or bad faith that hate crimes aren't a serious issue.

So what does the 2019 police data suggest? Unsurprisingly, it suggests Indigenous folks are much less likely to go to the police if they’ve been the victim of a hate crime. It’s also suggesting, again, that hate crimes targeting the LBGTQ+ community are significantly more likely to involve violence.

From our last survey, we know that fully 41 per cent of LGBTQ+ persons have reported experiencing online hate in the past few months – the most of any group. 

For years we’ve been calling on the government to have StatsCan generate better data on hate crime.

StatsCan has surveys done every year that ask Canadians a variety of questions. This data is turned into the General Social Survey. The last data they published about self-reported hate crime victimization was from 2014. They could repeat those victimization questions they did in 2014 every year. However, even if they do that, which they should, it's still a problem that StatsCan takes forever to publish.

We have a solution. We have applied for a government grant to run regular surveys with a professional polling company to ask Canadians if they have been the victim of a hate incident. This approach goes right to the source of the data -- individuals. We could publish this data multiple times a year and it would be the best way to measure the number of overt hate incidents in the country.

Of course we could slice that data up a number of ways: gender, province, age, race, religion, LGBTQ+, indigenous, etc. etc. Polls are not cheap though. We really need that Community Support, Multiculturalism, and Anti-Racism Initiatives Program grant to make this work -- or other significant funding sources. If you have a relationship with affluent philanthropists or foundations, we need your help with these kind of larger projects. Send us an email at [email protected]

That said, we're a lean organization and every dollar matters – our grassroots donors will make the difference whether we have another staff member next year or not. If you can help out, please visit antihate.ca/donate.

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