Jews most targeted religious group for hate crimes

Swastika was painted on a home in the Bathurst-Sheppard area. [Beth Karstadt photo]
A Swastika painted on a home in Toronto's Bathurst Street and Sheppard Avenue area, in 2015. BETH KARSTADT PHOTO

With the release of Statistics Canada’s 2015 report on hate crimes, Jews once again found themselves in familiar territory – leading the way as the single most targeted religious group in Canada.

According to Police Reported Hate Crimes, 2015, a StatsCan document released on June 13, Jews experienced 178 incidents of hate crimes, or 13 per cent of all such incidents in Canada. Blacks, with 224 incidents, experienced 17 per cent of all hate-motivated crimes, making them the single most targeted victim group in all categories.

Despite the distinction of being the two most-victimized groups, the total number of incidents involving each group dropped in 2015, compared to the year before. For Jews, the number fell from 213 in 2014, while for Blacks, 2014 saw 238 incidents, compared to 224 in 2015.

At the same time, Muslims saw a 61 per cent increase in the number of incidents targeting their community, experiencing 159 incidents in 2015, compared to 99 the year before.

‘Jews make up only one per cent of the population of Canada, yet they experienced 13 per cent of all hate crimes’

Overall, the number of hate crimes across the country jumped by five per cent in 2015, rising to 1,362, 67 more than in the previous year.

The StatsCan report is based on data collected by police services across the country. The reported incidents are criminal in nature and were motivated by hatred directed towards an identifiable group, as defined in the Criminal Code.

In the ranking of victimized groups by the number of hate crimes reported, Blacks (17 per cent) were the single most targeted group, followed by Jews (13 per cent), Muslims (12 per cent), sexual orientation (11 per cent) and Arab or West Asian (seven per cent).

Of 449 incidents involving religious groups, 339 were categorized as non-violent, including incidents such as mischief (vandalism or graffiti) and public incitement of hatred. There were 27 assaults targeting individuals based on their religion and 53 cases of uttering threats.

For Jews, the numbers can be seen as particularly troubling. Jews make up only one per cent of the population of Canada, yet they experienced 13 per cent of all hate crimes.

“The majority (85 per cent) of these incidents targeting Jewish populations between 2010 and 2015 were non-violent. Three-quarters of hate crimes targeting Jewish populations were mischief, such as vandalism and graffiti; six per cent were mischief motivated by hate in relation to religious property and 69 per cent were other mischief motivated by hate,” the report states.

Avi Benlolo, CEO of the Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, said, “We’re not surprised at the results.” Nevertheless, he believes incidents involving Jews are underreported, particularly on university campuses.

Benlolo said the Wiesenthal Center is concerned that in Ontario, “prosecution has been weak.” He pointed to a failure by the provincial attorney general to charge Your Ward News for hate crimes and the reluctance to charge participants in Al-Quds Day rallies, as well.


“The unacceptable reality of the timelessness of anti-Semitism in Canada has once again been illustrated by the Statistics Canada 2015 data,” said Amanda Hohmann, national director for B’nai Brith Canada’s League for Human Rights. “As our 2016 audit shows, we already know that things haven’t gotten any better, but have actually gotten worse.”

B’nai Brith reported 1,277 anti-Semitic incidents in 2015 and 1,728 in 2016, a 26 per cent increase.

Shimon Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), said “the takeaway, notwithstanding our relative size, is that the Jewish community is targeted more than any other religious group.”

Even though the number of incidents involving Muslims increased, the Muslim population is much greater than the Jewish one. Jews experienced 54 incidents for every 100,000 members of the community, versus 15 per 100,000 for Muslims, he noted.

“That has to raise some alarm bells. We know from historical experience that anti-Semitism is a bellwether for the… health of a society,” Fogel said.

But doesn’t 178 incidents in a country of 33 million still make for a fairly minor issue, he’s asked.

That number is likely an underestimate of the total number of incidents targeting Jews, since many other events don’t rise to the level of criminality, while many others likely go unreported, he said.

Nevertheless, Fogel continued, “On balance, Canada is an exceptionally wonderful place for a minority to live. In the overall scheme of things, Canada is a welcoming, warm and safe place in which to live. But not everything is perfect. We have work to do, in terms of protecting minorities at risk and working will all Canadians to deepen the sense of respect, inclusion and pluralism, and to eradicate intolerance.”