While the City of Toronto witnessed a drop in the number of hate crimes in 2015, Jews continued to be the single-most targeted victim group, though there were fewer incidents involving Jews than the year before.
According to the Toronto Police Service 2015 Annual Hate/Bias Crime Statistical Report, 31 occurrences involved Jews – plus one that targeted an Israeli.
The next most commonly victimized group were members of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) community, who were targeted 29 times. They were followed in number by Muslims, with 26 occurrences, and blacks, with 20.
In addition, among 10 separate incidents categorized as “multi-bias,” which referred to actions that targeted more than one victim group, three victims were described as black and Jewish, one was Jewish and LGBTQ and another was distinguished as Jewish and Muslim.
Altogether 134 incidents were reported to police in 2015, a drop of 8.2 per cent from the 146 occurrences the year before.
In 2014, Jews, were also the single most targeted group, with 44 occurrences reported. The 31 incidents in 2015 represent a 29.5 per cent drop from the number in 2014.
Jews make up 3.8 per cent of the city’s population, as measured by religious affiliation, yet in 2015 were victimized in nearly 24 per cent of the religiously motivated incidents.
Most of the incidents involved mischief to property, such as anti-Semitic graffiti or vandalism. Apartment buildings, schools and public places, such as laneways, were the most common location for mischief offences.
“The Jewish community was the most victimized group for mischief to property occurrences, while the LGBTQ community was the most victimized group for assault occurrences,” the report stated. “The Muslim community was the most victimized group for criminal harassment occurrences.”
Those incidents targeting Muslims spiked in November and may be attributed to a “negative backlash following the attacks in Paris, France, and the [Canadian] government’s refugee settlement program,” the report suggested.
Only 21 charges were laid against 19 persons in 2015, and only three of them were related to mischief offences.
“As in previous years, the number of arrests for hate/bias motivated offences was attributed to allegations of mischief to property (i.e. graffiti) in circumstances where there was little or no suspect description available. These occurrences frequently transpired without the victim or any witness present. These factors significantly added to the challenges in investigating hate/bias motivated offences and arresting suspects,” the report stated.
Commenting on the police findings, Toronto Mayor John Tory said, “I think we have work to do in our society, making sure we put into action the values that we talk and brag a lot about.
“I don’t think this is a job for the police. I think this is a job for each and every one of us as citizens. We have to better inform ourselves, we have to avoid what often happens, which is a rush to judgment about people based on their religion. I think that is true in recent times in the case of the Muslim faith,” he stated.
“For the 10th year in a row the Jewish community continues to be the number one target of hate crime offences in the City of Toronto… This is a devastating and unacceptable pattern of hate which should have alarm bells sounding in the corridors of Toronto’s law enforcement, educational and political offices,” said Avi Benlolo, CEO of Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
“It is clear that our civic leaders in all walks of life need to put a much greater effort into ensuring the safety and security of the city’s Jewish minority, and to speak clearly and forcefully against a growing tide of anti-Semitism,” he said.
Joel Reitman, co-chair of Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), Toronto, said, “Unfortunately, it comes as no surprise that the Jewish community finds itself once again disproportionately targeted in reported hate-crimes in Toronto. This is hardly an anomaly, which is why the security of our community is CIJA’s top priority. We offer a wide range of free services to ensure that Jewish institutions, their staff, and our community members are well protected. These services include security assessments, security briefings and tailored training sessions for security personnel.
“We strongly encourage staff and volunteers in the Jewish community who hold security-related responsibilities at their institutions to go to our website to learn more about the resources that are available,” Reitman added.