Canadian Anti-Hate Network
A new report released on Tuesday shows the number of hate crimes reported to police has jumped up 27 per cent during 2021. This follows a 36 per cent increase the year before, marking a 72 per cent increase over the past two years.
Revealed in Statistics Canada’s annual ”Police-reported crime statistics in Canada, 2021,” the data is drawn from a census of all crimes reported forward to StatCan by police services. The picture it paints is an incomplete one -- at best it provides useful, though limited, trend analysis. It is also a window into law enforcement priorities.
A total of 3,360 police-reported hate crimes were reported in 2021.
Previous reporting in March 2022 highlighted an increase of 37% between 2019 and 2020. When calculated, the precise jump is 36.8 percent.
“Hate crimes target the integral and visible parts of a person's identity and may disproportionately affect the wider community,” the report says. “A hate crime incident may be carried out against a person or property and may target race, colour, national or ethnic origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, language, sex, age, mental or physical disability, or any other similar factor.”
2021 In Numbers
Unsurprisingly, for the second year in a row, law enforcement notes that COVID-19 has been a major factor in contributing to hate crimes, noting that “racialized groups were more than twice as likely to report having experienced discrimination since the start of the pandemic compared with the rest of the population.”
The impacts of the pandemic have also “exposed and exacerbated” Canada’s issues related to safety and discrimination, including hate crimes. Over the reporting period, reported hate crimes targeting religion went up 67 per cent with an increase of 354 incidents, as did reported hate crimes targetting sexual orientation which was an increase of 165 incidents (64 per cent).
Race or ethnicity as a motivating factor increased by six per cent.
Source: Statistics Canada
There was a 27 per cent jump in police-reported hate crimes during the second year of the pandemic. That’s an increase from 2,646 reported incidents in 2020 to 3,360 in 2021, and captures a 25 per cent rise in non-violent hate crimes and a 29 per cent rise in violent hate crimes.
“While it is not possible to link police-reported hate crime incidents to particular events, media coverage and public discourse can increase awareness as well as draw negative reactions from people who share hateful attitudes,” the report notes. “In 2021, there were discoveries of unmarked graves on former residential school sites. Following these discoveries, there were reports of hate incidents targeting the Indigenous population as well as churches and other religious institutions.
“Any criminal incident deemed by police to be motivated by hate would be included in these statistics.”
StatCan adds that fluctuations in the number of reported incidents could be a change in the volume of hate crimes, as well as potential changes in reporting by the public because of “increased community outreach by police or heightened sensitivity after high-profile events.”
According to self-report data from the 2019 General Social Survey on Victimization, approximately one in five (22 per cent) of criminal incidents perceived to be motivated by hate were reported to the police.
The increase in reporting could reflect a “true change in the volume of hate crimes,” according to Statistics Canada, the agency also notes that increased community outreach by police and “heightened sensitivity after high-profile events” could also contribute to the rise in numbers.
The statistics also show that reported crimes targeting religion were down slightly in 2020, “as a result of fewer incidents targeting the Muslim community (-100 incidents), while incidents targeting the Jewish community rose slightly (+15 incidents).”
However, we have to be cautious in making comparisons between groups. There’s an issue with the data, which confuses categories like “Muslim.” If a Black, Muslim woman has her hijab pulled and is pushed to the ground while the perpetrator is yelling all kinds of racial slurs, will police code the crime as motivated by a hatred of Black people, Muslim people, women, or all three? In short, the more intersecting identities a person has, the more likely any one of their identities will be undercounted in the data.
Further, some communities have more institutional supports and are more comfortable with reporting incidents to law enforcement, so their numbers are higher as a result.
An Incomplete Picture
The data from these annual reports should and must be used to hold police accountable for solving the hate crimes reported to them, as well as underscore that victims of hate are hesitant to seek police intervention or remedy – and the hesitancy goes both ways. Two years of data collected by Dr. Barbara Perry and published in 2020 demonstrates that officers are reluctant to pursue hate crime cases, or gather evidence that regular crimes (eg. assault) are motivated by hate.
Surveys and interviews of police forces in Ontario conducted by Dr. Perry suggest this is because many officers view hate motivation as irrelevant to the crime. They are further disincentivized due to the additional work involved with collecting evidence not only of the crime, but of the motivation behind it.
If the goal is to have a barometer of hate incidents in Canada, the far superior measures are surveys of the general population. Statistics Canada’s “General Social Survey,” which does not rely on police-reported numbers, provides a more accurate picture of the reality. A comparison of the 2014 GSS to police-reported hate crime data from the same year suggested there were approximately 20 times more hate incidents in Canada than the police reported to StatCanada.
The most recent General Social Survey found a startling disparity between the number of hate crimes reported by police and those self-reported by Canadians.
According to Statistics Canada, there were an estimated 223,000 self-reported hate crimes in Canada in 2019, with the highest proportion in Ontario (33 percent), Quebec (28 per cent), and Alberta (14 per cent). In the same period, law enforcement reported 1,951 hate crimes, meaning that less than one per cent of perceived hate crimes in 2019 were captured in the police-reported statistics.