Hate crimes against Muslims are down as overall number of hate crimes increases

Racist graffiti on a fence outside the home of Syrian refugee family's home in Winnipeg.
Racist graffiti on a fence outside the home of Syrian refugee family's home in Winnipeg. Randall Paull / Global News

The number of police-reported hate crimes specifically targeting Muslims went down last year after spiking by over 250 per cent in the four years prior.

According to Statistics Canada data released Tuesday, police across the country recorded 139 hate crimes against Muslims in 2016, down from 159 in 2015.

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In 2012, that number stood at just 45, and last spring the National Council of Canadian Muslims had said they feared the numbers would only continue to go up with each passing year.

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Statistics Canada cautioned on Tuesday that there are almost always other factors at play, beyond a simple increase or decrease in hateful acts.

“Fluctuations in the annual number of incidents can be influenced by changes in local police service practices and community involvement, as well as the willingness of victims to report incidents to police,” Statistics Canada noted.

“The number of hate crimes presented in this release likely undercounts the true extent of hate crime in Canada, as not all crimes are reported to police.”

Tuesday’s totals would not include the attack at a Quebec City mosque in January 2017 that killed six Muslims.

Overall hate crimes increase

Overall, police reported 1,409 hate crimes in Canada in 2016, 47 more than in 2015. That’s an increase of three per cent, which can be attributed to more hate crimes targeting South Asians, Arabs, West Asians, the Jewish population and members of the LGBTQ community.

Hate crimes against Jewish people saw the largest spike last year, from 178 incidents reported to police in 2015 to 221 reported in 2016. These increases were recorded mainly in Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba.

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Overall, Quebec and British Columbia saw the largest increases in police-reported hate crimes, while the number of similar crimes fell in Alberta. Ontario recorded more hate crimes than any other jurisdiction, however, at 612.

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Hate crimes still represent just a tiny fraction (0.1 per cent) of the 1,895,546 crimes that were reported by police services last year (excluding traffic violations). The most common motivating factor for hate remains a victim’s race, followed by religion and sexual orientation.

LGBTQ-targeted hate remains most violent

The spectrum of police-reported hate crimes runs the gamut from hateful graffiti or vandalism right up to criminal assault or even homicide. But overall, year over year, hate crimes in Canada are becoming more violent.

Violent hate-motivated crimes rose from 487 in 2015 to 563 in 2016, an increase of 16 per cent.

Hate crimes based on sexual orientation tend to be the most violent. In 2016, 71 per cent of hate crimes motivated by hatred of the victims’ sexual orientation were classified as violent. By comparison, 27 per cent of hate crimes targeting religion and 45 per cent targeting ethnicity were violent.

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