Canada: Hate crimes targeting Muslims up 61 percent
Hate crimes targeting Muslims in Canada increased by 61 percent between 2014 and 2015, according to new data from the country's national statistical agency.
One hundred and fifty-nine hate crimes targeting Muslims were reported to police in 2015 across Canada, up from 99 incidents the year before, while hate crimes in general rose by five percent across the country in 2015, Statistics Canada said on Tuesday.
This is “largely due to an increase in incidents targeting certain religious and ethno-cultural groups, specifically the Muslim population and Arabs or West Asians,” Statistics Canada stated in its report.
Overall, 35 percent of hate crimes – criminal incidents that police find to be motivated by hatred towards a group on the basis of race, colour, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or other factors – were motivated by religion in 2015.
Muslim women in particular bear the brunt of being targets of hate crimes
- Farhat Rehman, of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women
Meanwhile, though the number of hate crimes targeting Jewish people went down to 178 incidents in 2015, compared to 213 incidents the year before, the Jewish community remained the most targeted religious group overall.
Thirteen percent of all hate crimes in 2015 targeted Jewish people in Canada, while 12 percent of overall hate crimes targeted Muslims.
“The tragic and cold-blooded murder of six men at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec last January is a painful reminder of how hate can destroy lives and deeply shake communities,” Khalid Elgazzar, vice-chair of the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), said in a statement.
“Today's numbers capture only a fraction of what is happening in our neighbourhoods, in our workplaces, in our schools, and at our places of worship,” Elgazzar said.
A call for action
Since the deadly attack on the Quebec City mosque in January, dozens of hate incidents targeting Muslim communities have been reported across Canada, including vandalism of homes and mosques, and anti-Muslim rallies held in major cities.
But Statistics Canada estimates that only 35 percent of incidents perceived to be motivated by hate are reported to police and therefore the data for 2015 “likely undercounts the true extent of hate crime in Canada”.
The NCCM has called for police services to publish annual reports on hate crimes and bias incidents every year, boost funding for hate crimes units, and be more transparent in how they determine whether incidents will be investigated as hate crimes.
It also wants the “federal government to provide increased, stable funding to ensure that hate crime reports are made available to the public in a more timely fashion”.
Ottawa must also track the growth of hate online, “a phenomena with which we are increasingly concerned,” the organisation said.
"It is up to all levels of governments to ensure that perpetrators of hate crimes in Canada are held to account and that victims and communities are empowered to confront hatred regardless of who it targets or its motivation,” Elgazzar said.
In its report, Statistics Canada also found that women were particularly vulnerable to religious-based hate incidents.
"Muslim women in particular bear the brunt of being targets of hate crimes. It has been an unfortunate reality with reported incidents on the streets, at the workplace or in a shopping mall," Farhat Rehman, of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, said in a statement.
In 2015, Muslim women reported being verbally and physically assaulted in several incidents across the country.
This included a Muslim woman who was called a “terrorist” while picking her children up from school in Toronto, and a pregnant Muslim woman in Montreal assaulted by teenagers who tried to tear off her headscarf.
At the time, Canada was in the midst of a federal election campaign that saw the then-ruling Conservative Party vow it would bar women who completely cover their faces (with a niqab) from participating in citizenship ceremonies.
The Conservatives also promised to establish a “barbaric cultural practices” hotline, a proposal that critics said unfairly targeted the Muslim community in Canada.
Meanwhile, Statistics Canada found that 48 percent of hate crimes were motivated by hatred of a race or ethnicity in 2015, and black communities were the targets of 17 percent of all hate crimes that year.
"Anti-Black is a serious problem in Canada," Chelby Marie Daigle, the author of a report called Addressing Anti-Black Racism in Ottawa, said in a statement.
"My community needs to become a priority for government and other institutions to consult with on addressing this issue and we definitely aren't now, despite the years of being one of the most targeted groups."