Jews still most targeted group for hate-motivated crimes

It was a good news/bad news scenario for Canadian Jews – with an emphasis on the bad news – when it came to hate crimes reported to police in 2018 and compiled by Statistics Canada.

First, the good news: the number of incidents targeting Jews declined in 2018 to 347 from 360 the year before, a drop of four per cent.

Now, the bad news, and there was plenty of it. Jews were again the most targeted victim group in Canada in 2018, accounting for more than 19 per cent of all incidents. While the number of events in which Jews were victims fell, the decline experienced by Jews was far less than the overall drop in criminal incidents based on religion, which plummeted by 24 per cent.

Other minority groups fared better than Jews. The next most targeted victim group, black people, saw a 12 per cent drop in the number of incidents, from 321 in 2017 to 283 in 2018.

Incidents due to a victim’s sexual orientation declined by 15 per cent, while events involving Muslims plunged by 50 per cent.

Those findings were reported in Police-Reported Hate Crimes in Canada, 2018, released on Feb. 26 by Statistics Canada. The report is based on a survey of police forces across Canada that serve most of the country.

Overall, “in 2018, police reported 1,798 criminal incidents in Canada that were motivated by hate….The number of police-reported hate crimes decreased by 13 per cent, or 275 fewer incidents, compared to the previous year.

“With the exception of 2017, the number of hate crimes in 2018 was higher than any other year in the past 10 years,” the report stated.

Those figures were particularly applicable to Canada’s Jews. Despite the four per cent decline in 2018, from a particularly high number in 2017, Jews experienced 57 per cent more hate crimes in 2018 than in 2016.

Though leading in the dubious distinction of being the No. 1 victims when it comes to hate-motivated crimes, Jews account for only about one per cent of the population of Canada, a fact noted by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA).

Joel Reitman and Jeffrey Rosenthal, co-chairs of CIJA, issued a statement saying, “All Canadians should be troubled by the worrying trend of anti-Semitism in Canada. Despite an overall decline in hate crime, incidents targeting the Jewish community remained stable after a sharp spike in 2017. What starts with Jews, never ends with Jews. We continue to urge Canadian leaders at all levels of government to take action in protecting our community from the dangers Jew-hatred.”

Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada, said, “The StatsCan report shows once again that Canadian Jews were the most targeted group for hate crimes in 2018, a trend continuing from the previous three years.

Mostyn said the StatsCan data does not “capture the whole picture of anti-Semitic hate crime, which is shown in our Annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents,” due to be released in the coming months.

Examining the nature of criminal incidents across the country, StatsCan noted, “During the same period (from 2010-18), 84 per cent of crimes against the Jewish population were non-violent. The large majority of the non-violent hate crimes were general mischief (81 per cent) as well as hate-motivated mischief relating to property primarily used for religious worship or by an identifiable group (seven per cent). The most common violent offence against this population was uttering threats (42 per cent of violent offences and seven per cent of all offences targeting the Jewish population).”

The report found that the national rate of incidents in Canada’s metropolitan centres was 4.9 per 100,000 people, with the total rate of incidents in Toronto (6.4) and Montreal (6.5) – home to the two largest Jewish communities in Canada – above the national average.

Overall, half of all hate crimes occurred in Canada’s four largest cities – Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary – even though they are home to 38 per cent of the total population.

Still, the total number of incidents in Toronto declined by 155 and decreased by 35 in Montreal – though those dips came after substantial spikes in 2017, leaving the 2018 statistics higher than in 2016.

As a result, StatsCan stated, “hate crimes remain at the highest level historically. The decrease in Toronto was driven by decreases in crimes motivated by hatred of the Muslim (-71 incidents), Jewish (-31 incidents) and black (-18) populations.”

The major cities with the highest rate of hate incidents were Hamilton, Ont., Quebec City and Ottawa.

“Like Hamilton, hate crimes in Ottawa primarily targeted the Jewish (37 per cent) and black (14 per cent) populations,” the report stated.

Noting the prevalence of hate crimes against Jews, CIJA pointed to proposed legislation currently being vetted in the Ontario provincial parliament as one way of addressing the issue: “Sadly, Ontario, home to the largest Jewish population in Canada, experiences more hate crime than any other province.

“This week, Ontario lawmakers will vote on Bill 168: An Act to Combat Anti-Semitism, which empowers government agencies to more effectively address the threat of contemporary anti-Semitism. Countering the scourge of hate is vital. We urge all members of provincial parliament to support this bill, thereby affirming their commitment to combating anti-Semitism and all other forms of hate,” CIJA stated.