Ottawa Police report 44 per cent increase in hate-motivated incidents

An Ottawa Police vehicle is seen from behind, idling on a busy street in downtown Ottawa.
The OPS' Hate and Bias Crime Unit's annual report highlights a sharp increase in hate-related crimes during 2021. Photo by Meara Belanger.
Meara Belanger - CHUO - OttawaON | 08-03-2022
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Hate-motivated crimes have increased by nearly 44 percent in 2021, according to the Ottawa Police Service.

On Friday, the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) Hate and Bias Crime Unit released its annual report on hate-motivated crimes. The report indicated a 43.6 percent increase in hate-motivated crimes over 2021, which included mischief to property, assault, and assault with a weapon.

OPS data indicates a consistent rise in hate-motivated crimes over the last three years, with 340 reported incidents in 2021, up from 181 in 2020, and 116 in 2019. 

OPS Sgt. Ali Toghrol of the Hate and Bias Crime Unit says the report highlights an urgent issue.

“This is a troubling trend considering not all hate-motivated incidents are reported to police,” says Toghrol. “Hate crimes create fear and mistrust which can deeply impact our community. The Hate and Bias Crime Unit will investigate all reported hate-motivated incidents and we will continue to engage and educate the public.”

The Criminal Code of Canada doesn’t include a definition for “hate crimes”. There are three offences pertaining to hate and bias, including advocating genocide, public incitement of hatred, and the wilful promotion of hate.

As per Section 319 of the Criminal Code, the OPS differentiates between hate crimes and hate incidents, which are similarly hate or bias-motivated, but aren’t considered criminal offenses.

According to the Ottawa Neighbourhood Study, there are over 241-thousand racialized people living in Ottawa - around a quarter of the city’s total population.  

According to the OPS report, the most commonly targeted demographics were residents identifying as Jewish, Black, LGBTQ+, East and Southeast Asian, Arab and West Asian, and Muslim.

The data from the report only pertains to crimes committed in 2021, but there is already some evidence indicating the rate of hate-motivated crimes will increase further over 2022. 

In response to a high volume of hate crime reports during the nearly month-long occupation of Ottawa, the OPS created a hate-motivated crime hotline which received hundreds of calls.

According to the OPS, every hate-related report is investigated. However, of the 340 reports of hate-motivated crimes in 2021, 240 (76 percent) were deemed as criminal, and only 26 individuals were charged. 

A proposed amendment to the Criminal Code called Bill C-36 could result in a broader definition of hate crimes and stricter charges for those who commit them, according to a statement from the Department of Justice.

According to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General David Lametti, who announced the proposed legislation in June 2021, says it will “help protect the vulnerable and empower those who are victimized”.

“Canadians expect their government to take action against hate speech and hate crimes,” says Lametti. “These legislative changes would improve the remedies available to victims of hate speech and hate crimes, and would hold individuals accountable.”

The proposed legislation would add a definition for “hatred” to the existing Criminal Code, as well as measures to address online hate speech and prevent hate propaganda.

The bill, which didn’t pass the House of Commons, is currently being re-worked by the Federal Liberals, who vow to reintroduce the legislation “as soon as possible”. 

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