The vast majority of hate crimes in Canada are not solved by police, new data show, a finding that comes as these crimes surged to a record in 2017.
Police solved just 28 per cent of hate-crime incidents in 2017, new Statistics Canada analysis shows. By comparison, among all Criminal Code violations (excluding traffic violations), 40 per cent were solved by police in that year.
The picture comes as hate crimes rose for a fourth straight year in Canada, with a record jump in 2017, fuelled by increases in crimes against the Muslim and Jewish populations, along with crimes targeting the black community.
The low rate at which these crimes are solved “is disturbing,” said Barbara Perry, an expert on hate crimes and professor of criminology at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. “That’s a piece of data that communities that are most targeted are really going to be concerned about, because if you just look at it on the surface, it really suggests a lack of attention and a lack of care.”
Many reported crimes are graffiti and vandalism, where it’s difficult to identify the perpetrator, she noted, and police may prioritize more violent crimes. “But it is of a different order, because it doesn’t just affect an individual; it affects entire communities when you see that."
Hate crimes refer to criminal incidents that can be against a person or property and may target factors such as race, religion, gender identity, ethnic origin and physical disability.
This week’s Statscan paper paints a more complete picture after its initial release on 2017 numbers in November. Of the hate-crime incidents that were solved, 61 per cent were cleared with charges laid and 39 per cent were “cleared otherwise,” meaning an accused was identified but charges weren’t laid, the agency said. In addition, between 2009 and 2017, Statscan recorded only 37 hate-crime cases that were completed in courts; of the few cases that ended in a finding of guilt, the accused was mostly sentenced to probation.
For 2016, Statscan reported that 29 per cent of hate crimes were cleared by police.
The paper also sheds light on who the perpetrators of these crimes are. Most of those accused of hate crimes in Canada are young, and typically male. The median age of those accused of hate crimes is 25, and teenagers – those between the ages of 12 and 17 – comprised a quarter of all people accused of hate crimes between 2010 and 2017, Statscan said. Of youth accused of hate crimes, 85 per cent were male.
The young age of perpetrators “is really troubling,” said Amira Elghawaby, board member of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network. “Are they consuming this type of hatred online? Where are they getting it and how are we going to counter that? … This is giving us a hint of where we should be doing more research.”
The age of perpetrators varied depending on the crime. The median age of those accused of hate crimes targeting sexual orientation was 23, while the average age of those accused of targeting the Muslim community is 42.
Hate crimes increased nearly across the board in 2017. All religions saw increases in that year, led by more crimes against the Muslim population; by race or ethnicity, the black, Arab and West Asian communities experienced more incidents, while hate crimes targeting sexual orientation also rose.
“What’s stark is how it’s really going up in so many communities,” Ms. Elghawaby said.
A separate Statscan survey shows two-thirds of these incidents are not reported to police.
The 47-per-cent annual jump in these crimes in 2017 could stem partly from more people willing to report them and more dedicated hate-crime units among police services – but the sheer magnitude of the increase suggests the actual number of these crimes has grown, Prof. Perry said. “The coalescence of political rhetoric along with online hate really are the two key mechanisms driving this.”
Recent reports suggest some communities are still being targeted. Last year saw another record for anti-Semitic incidents, B’nai Brith Canada reported in its annual audit on Monday. Among the incidents it recorded were a group of teens shooting lit fireworks at Hasidic Jews in Quebec, and a group of Orthodox students in Toronto being assaulted in the streets.
A real-time tracking of anti-Muslim incidents shows 24 cases so far this year, most of them in Ontario, with a spike occurring after the New Zealand mosque attacks in March, according to the National Council of Canadian Muslims. In one recent report, a young Muslim woman wearing a hijab was attacked and knocked unconscious by a man in a Shoppers Drug Mart plaza in Mississauga.
“The data that we’re seeing so far for 2018 and 2019 is equally surprising and equally concerning to us,” said Leila Nasr, spokeswoman for the council.