Police say reports of hate crimes have increased in several Canadian cities since October 7, when Hamas launched its brutal attack on Israel, including spikes of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in Toronto and Montreal.
“Our internal experts have reported that they have indeed seen an increase in reports since October 7,” Ottawa police said in a statement to Breaking: late last month.
Data obtained by Breaking: shows an increase in reported hate crimes in cities with the largest Jewish and Muslim populations in Canada, including Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa.
The increases come in the context of the war in the Middle East, in which Israel continues its military campaign (through airstrikes and now a ground invasion) following the October 7 massacre carried out by the militant group Hamas, which continues launching thousands of missiles. rockets against civilian areas of Israel.
The effects of the violence are spreading beyond the region, including Canada.
Hikes through Canada
Police in Toronto, home to Canada’s largest Jewish and Muslim population, said reports of hate crimes during much of October had more than doubled compared with the same period last year.
The city’s police chief, Myron Demkiw, said 15 anti-Semitic hate crimes were reported during the period from October 7 to 25, compared to seven in the same period in 2022 and three in 2021.
TPS is investigating two hate-motivated incidents involving mezuzahs. In one incident a mezuzah was stolen, in the second hateful comments were made. Call 4168082222 if you experience any bullying, harassment or hateful behavior.
Demkiw also said that five Islamophobic hate crimes have been reported during the same period from October 7 to 25 this year. In 2022 there were zero and in 2021 one.
Demkiw called these findings “a very significant increase.”
Montreal police reported a total of 14 and 38 hate crimes and/or incidents against the Arab-Muslim community and the Jewish community, respectively, during the same period from October 7 to 25. That is compared to figures 2022 where there were a total of 50 hate crimes against religion and 21 non-criminal hate “incidents” throughout the year.
In Ottawa, police recorded 29 hate-motivated incidents during a similar period from Oct. 7 to Oct. 23. They were unable to provide data from last year, but most of those 29 incidents “are in some way related to the ongoing conflict in the Gaza area,” said Const. Cailey Walker, spokesperson for the service.
SEE | Toronto police increase patrols amid war between Israel and Hamas:
In Calgary, they received “11 files in relation to the conflict” in the first few weeks after Oct. 7, said Matt Messenger, hate crimes coordinator for Calgary police. Situations that trigger an increase in hate crimes typically only take effect for a few days. But Messenger says these hate crimes don’t seem to be slowing down.
“It’s spread over the last few weeks, whereas in previous years… we’ve seen a lot of files arrive in the first few days and disappear,” he said.
Why are hate crimes committed?
Several incidents since October 7 have attracted media attention, although in most cases there is no way to directly attribute them to war tensions.
Some recent cases include a rabbi’s home in BC being incited and vandalized with a Nazi swastika. In Ottawa, a mosque was smeared with feces, and in Toronto, Stars of David dripping red paint They have seen each other around the city. Meanwhile, Winnipeg police say a shooting at a house with a visible “religious symbol” It is also being investigated as a hate crime.
Crimes in response to incidents like war are known as “reactive hate crimes,” explained David Hofmann, associate professor of sociology at the University of New Brunswick.
“So unlike hate crimes committed by long-established groups…reactive crimes are linked, basically, to world events as people get caught up in issues of identity and nationalism.”
Motivations for committing hate crimes vary, said Hofmann, who is also director of UNB’s criminology and criminal justice program, but he offers an explanation.
“Going so far to commit hate crimes is more, I would call it, an act of catharsis, venting anger, feeling like you can take control in a very chaotic and very difficult to understand conflict.”
They don’t seem to be slowing down because “waves of reactive hate crimes feed on energy,” Hofmann said.
“There’s a constant flow of horrible images from one side or the other that just keeps this energy going,” he added. “As long as people feel trapped in these very complex and burning emotions, there will be a small number of people who will continue to commit these hate crimes.”
The Jewish community is the most attacked
In the long term, the Jewish community is the group most targeted by hate crimes in Canada, according to data published by Statistics Canada. And reported crimes have steadily increased: in 2019, 306 anti-Semitic hate crimes were reported nationally; in 2020 there were 331; in 2021, an increase to 492; and another jump to 502 in 2022.
“What we’ve been seeing is a slow advance and acceptance of far-right rhetoric and conspiracy theory mentality,” Hofmann said.
Central to many of these extreme mindsets and conspiracy theories are hateful and anti-Semitic ideas toward Jews, which is part of the reason they are the most targeted group, Hofmann said.
The same Statistics Canada Report indicates hate crimes against other groups and religions, including the Muslim community, which recorded 182 reported hate crimes in 2019, 84 in 2020, 142 in 2021 and 104 last year.
Community leaders react
Both the Jewish and Muslim communities are feeling the impacts.
“This feels very different,” said Nuzhat Jafri, executive director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women. “It’s even worse than after 9/11 because it’s relentless.”
“The Jewish community feels, I mean, alarmed is too mild a word,” said Michael Levitt, president and CEO of the Toronto-based Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies. “They feel… afraid of what they’re seeing.”
Jafri said he hopes communities come together.
“We are interdependent,” he said. “We cannot survive without each other. It doesn’t matter what faith or race you are… We are global inhabitants of this world and we need each other to make this world better for everyone.”