The number of police-reported hate crimes targeting Muslims in Canada more than tripled between 2012 and 2015, despite the overall number of such crimes decreasing over the same period, according to Statistics Canada data released Tuesday.
In 2015, police across the country recorded 159 hate crimes targeted at Muslims, up from 45 in 2012, representing an increase of 253 per cent.
In just one year, between 2014 and 2015, that number increased by 59 per cent: from 99 in 2014 to 159 the following year.
That trend seems set to continue, said Amira Elghawaby, the communications director with the National Council of Canadian Muslims.
“The data we’re collecting indicates a significant increase from this time last year already,” she said.
“I believe we’re already way outpacing the data that we have from 2016 and therefore 2015.”
Elghawaby’s organization collects its own data, which may deviate from the numbers collected at Statistics Canada. That said, the trend lines generally match up, she said.
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Statistics Canada defines a hate crime as a criminal incident that, following a police investigation, is determined to have been motivated by hatred toward a specific and definable group, whether by race, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, language, sex, age or disability, to name a few.
Overall, the number of police-reported hate crimes across the country decreased 3.8 per cent to 1,362 from a high of 1,414 in 2012.
Still, that total has increased since 2013 when the overall number was 1,165, representing a 14.5 per cent hike over three years.
Racist and ethnic motivations
Race continued to be the most common motivator for hate crimes in Canada, the report indicated, increasing by five per cent between 2014 and 2015, and representing almost half of all police-reported hate crimes in 2015.
And though the overall number decreased by 14 incidents, members of the black community in Canada remained, by far, the most targeted group in terms of police-reported hate crimes, representing 17 per cent of all hate crimes.
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The overall increase in the category, however, was attributed mostly to hate crimes targeting Arabs and West Asian populations, the report noted.
Though this report only includes incidents up until the end of 2015, many in Canada and around the world remember vividly the attack at a Quebec City mosque in January that killed six people.
In Ottawa last fall, synagogues, a church and mosque were vandalized with spray painted swastikas and racially charged language.
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In early November, Global News obtained a video showing a heated and racist exchange between passengers on Calgary public transit.
At the time, many in Canada wondered whether these incidents were the consequence of Donald Trump’s rhetoric south of the border.
While there may be something to say about Trump normalizing certain attitudes, the numbers in Canada are a reflection of nothing except what’s happening in Canada, said Chelby Marie Daigle, the editor-in-chief of Muslim Link, an Ottawa community newspaper.
“The media narrative has focused more on the religion aspect and also this sort of American political thing,” she said Tuesday.
“If we actually take a closer look, when you realize this has been happening since 2012, this is very homegrown. This is not something we can put on the U.S. It has to do with our own political rhetoric.”
Religious hate crimes increase
In 2015, police reported 469, or 35 per cent, of all hate crimes were motivated by the hatred of a religion, according to the report – that’s 40 more such incidents than the previous year, when they represented 33 per cent of all hate crimes.
“What we consistently have been seeing is an increased number, not only of anti-Muslim hate crimes, but also targeting the Jewish community and other marginalized communities,” said Elghawaby.
Although Jewish Canadians still experience the highest incidence of religion-related hate crimes, the number of incidents declined to 178 in 2015 from 213 the previous year, whereas crimes again Muslim Canadians increased.
Across Canada, only 10 per cent of the population belongs to a religion other than Christianity, according to Statistics Canada.
Recent projections from the federal agency suggest that number could almost double by 2036.
“Within this group, the Muslim, Hindu and Sikh faiths would see the number of their followers grow more quickly, although still representing a small portion of the population overall,” Tuesday’s report reads.
Trends across the provinces
Eight of the 10 provinces reported increases in the number of police-related hate crimes from 2014-15, though the increase was most pronounced in Alberta.
Over the past year (incidents that wouldn’t be in Tuesday’s data release) Edmonton police investigated the a series of claims that anti-Muslim literature was being placed in mailboxes, a man was walking in downtown Edmonton when someone in a passing car yelled, “The n*****s are coming! The n*****s are coming!” and Calgary police investigated graffiti at a park that targeted Muslims and Jews, to name a few incidents.
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Province-wide, police reported 193 hate crimes in 2015, up 39 per cent from 2014, when they reported 139.
“This increase was primarily driven by a higher number of police-reported crimes motivated by hatred against the Muslim population, Arab or West Asian populations, black populations, and the Jewish population,” the report read. “It should be noted that Alberta also reported an overall increase in their 2015 crime statistics.”
On the other side of the coin, Ontario – which has traditionally accounted for almost half the overall hate crimes in Canada – saw a five per cent drop between 2014 and 2015. This decrease, according to Statistics Canada, was primarily driven by fewer hate crimes motivated by hatred of Jewish and black people.