The annual hate crime report has been released in Canada’s largest city by the Toronto Police Service (see the CJR’s news coverage today). And it will come as no real surprise that again, Toronto’s Jewish community which makes up 190,000 of Toronto’s 6 million people, or less than four percent of the total, continues to face the brunt of reported/investigated hate crimes.
Fully 42 percent of the reported crimes of hate targeted Jews in the City of Toronto. In York Region, Jews also led in reported hate crimes, collecting 32 percent of all incidents. Muslim Canadians, LGBTQ and Black Canadians closely followed.
However, we cannot regard these numbers as definitive. Police statistics have always been difficult to totally accept. Most minority groups face serious barriers to reporting alleged hate crime to police. Fear of police and fear of retaliation from hatemongers are very much part of those barriers.
For the most part, according to research from the Canadian Anti-Hate Network (whose board CJR co-founder and publisher Bernie Farber chairs), police do not share the number of reports they receive – only those in which some progress has been made in investigation.
According to the “General Social Survey on Victimization,” a population survey conducted every five years, the real incidence of hate crimes might be up to 20 times higher than reported.
As for collecting information by organizations representing minority communities, the data and the processes for gathering, investigating and reaching conclusions are not always fully realized. Community groups simply do not have the resources to make full assessments, so at best, these reports should be seen more as a snapshot of ongoing trends.
It is absolutely necessary for police and authorities to up their game in monitoring, collecting and analyzing hate crime statistics. This is most especially true when it comes to online hate. There are online tools available to track sentiment and issues around various vital matters including anti-Black racism, antisemitic hate speech, Islamophobic and homophobic sites. We are not currently aware if any groups, including police, are making use of these important tools.
At a time when hateful conspiracies are being freely bandied about on social media, when individuals, especially young people, are being radicalized into hatred, society must begin to devote resources to fight this scourge. Failure to do so will encourage extremist hateful elements to continue down their road of poison.