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(Walter Tychnowicz)
(Walter Tychnowicz)

Hate crimes on the rise in Canada Add to ...

Hate crimes took an ugly toll in 2009, with Canadian police forces reporting a 42 per cent increase in offences.

The number of reported hate crimes - which, at 1,473, is more than four incidents a day - is the highest since Statistics Canada started collecting national data in 2005. The increase follows a 35 per cent jump in 2008.

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"It's sadly more of the same. Every year, there's a … really dramatic increase," said Barbara Perry, a criminology professor at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology who researches hate crime.

But the numbers don't tell the whole story.

The 2009 jump partly reflects a greater awareness of the seriousness of hate crime, Prof. Perry said. Statistics Canada measures the number of offences reported to police that officers determined were motivated by hate toward an identifiable group.

Prof. Perry cited "a much more concerted effort" among some police forces to train officers to recognize hate crimes and reach out to the most targeted communities, including religious groups, ethnic minorities and gays and lesbians.

On the flip side, however, Prof. Perry said research suggests that only a small fraction of victims of hate crimes report them to police. A 2009 survey found that Canadians reported just one-third of incidents they perceived to have been motivated by hate.

And while some police forces have dedicated hate crimes units, most lag behind, Prof. Perry said.

"I would sum it up as very uneven. And I think more rather than less lack the training, lack the recognition, lack the awareness of hate crime and, therefore, I would say the larger proportion are not taking it seriously," she said.

In its report released on Tuesday, Statistics Canada found that 54 per cent of police-reported hate crimes were motivated by race or ethnicity, 29 per cent by religion and 18 per cent by sexual orientation.

Most of the increases in police-reported hate crimes happened in four areas: Ottawa, Toronto, Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo and Montreal.

The Jewish community was especially victimized, with the number of hate crimes against Jews rising 71 per cent since 2008.

"If you consider the size of our community and the frequency with which we are targeted, obviously it's very disturbing and remains a matter of great concern," said Len Rudner, the Canadian Jewish Congress's regional director for Ontario.

Mr. Rudner said he suspects part of the increase in 2009 was connected to events in the Middle East, specifically Israel's aerial assault against Gaza in the last days of 2008.

About four in 10 hate crimes were violent offences, such as assault, which is more common against gays and lesbians. More than half of hate crimes involved mischief, such as graffiti or vandalism.

Statistics Canada's figures on police-reported hate crimes come from forces that serve 87 per cent of the Canadian population. Not all police forces - especially smaller ones - submit hate-crimes data to Statscan, partly because doing so requires special training, equipment and technology.

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