Police-reported hate crimes up 21% in B.C. during 2nd year of pandemic

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Police-reported hate crimes up 21% in B.C. during 2nd year of pandemic

Hate crimes have risen along with increasing societal divisions: experts

Data released by Statistics Canada shows that hate crimes are on the rise. Experts say increasing societal divisions are part of the problem.

Hate crimes as reported by police forces in B.C.’s metropolitan areas are up for the second straight year of the pandemic, according to the latest data from Statistics Canada released Tuesday.

Vancouver, Victoria, Abbotsford-Mission and Kelowna — the four municipalities in B.C. the federal agency chooses to represent in its data — saw an overall 21 per cent increase in police-reported hate crimes in 2021 (from 421 to 509 incidents), following a 58 per cent jump in 2020. 

The agency says the pandemic has exacerbated discrimination across Canada, from 2,646 reported incidents in 2020 to 3,360 in 2021, an increase of 27 per cent following a 36 per cent increase in 2020.

Each summer, Statistics Canada releases raw data on hate crimes reported by RCMP and municipal police forces from 35 metropolitan census areas nationwide, along with a detailed report on police-reported crimes of all sorts.

Statistics Canada notes that race and ethnicity were the main motivators of hate crimes across the country last year, but the increase, six per cent, was much smaller than those in hate-related incidents stemming from religion,67 per cent, and sexual orientation, 64 per cent.

Mischief and assault remained the two major types of Criminal Code violations involving hate crimes across the country.

Vancouver has consistently had the highest number of police-reported hate crimes (429 last year) and the highest hate crime rate per 100,000 residents (15.5 last year), but Abbotsford-Mission and Kelowna have been catching up.

Kelowna, with a hate crime rate of 2.7 incidents per 100,000 residents in 2020, saw that figure jump to 10.5 in 2021, surpassing Victoria at 9.6. Abbotsford-Mission’s hate crime rate went from 3.9 incidents per 100,000 residents in 2020 to 7.7 incidents in 2021. 

Hate crimes under-reported, advocates say

StatsCan’s hate crimes data reflects only those incidents that were reported to the police.

Karen Hira, the executive director of the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society, says from her experience as a research analyst with the Victoria Police Department for almost four years, hate crimes tend to be under-reported partly because of the police’s narrow definition of them.

Hira says her friend, who is Black, reported her neighbour repeatedly called her the N-word, but it went nowhere when police discovered the perpetrator had a mental disorder.

“Unfortunately, they are still victims — they still had a poor experience. It affected their daily life and caused anxiety and fear,” she said.

Crowds take to the streets in Vancouver to march against racism and celebrate Black culture on June 19, 2020. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Alex DeForge, the social impact co-ordinator of the Vancouver-based queer and trans resource centre QMUNITY, says most LGBTQ people have faced hate crimes in their lifetime but tend to under-report them because of the long history of mistrust of police in the community.

“You don’t know if you’re going to be believed. You don’t know if it’s going to be well handled,” DeForge said. “We wonder if police intervention will actually do anything.”

An RCMP officer wears a Pride pin at the RCMP detachment in Surrey, B.C. Alex DeForge says LGBTQ communities tend to under-report hate incidents because of a long history of distrust of the police. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Most hate crime incidents don’t lead to charges: StatsCan

Muhi Bakini, the diversity education supervisor at Archway Community Services in Abbotsford, says his organization works closely with local police and will provide mental health support to its clients before they decide whether to report hate incidents.

“Because they feel empowered after they have spoken to us, they feel like they can take action themselves,” Bakini said, adding that Archway also provides legal advice to clients if they want to take legal action against perpetrators.

Statistics Canada said most police-reported hate crime incidents don’t lead to hate crime charges by Crown prosecutors.

Security guard Anmol Singh says he reported an anti-vaccine protester to the police who yelled racial slurs at him at a Kelowna clinic last July, but the Mounties announced in April the Crown had decided to charge the protester for “causing a disturbance,” which isn’t a hate crime.

Security guard Anmol Singh, pictured near the Okanagan Lake in Kelowna, B.C., says he’s grateful for the community support he has received since being targeted by racial slurs. (Winston Szeto/CBC)

While not happy with the outcome, as a soon-to-be Canadian permanent resident and an aspiring police officer, he says he’s grateful for all the community support he has received.

“Kelowna, in general, I like it here — it’s a pretty good place to live,” he said. “It’s amazing to see people come together if something happens.”

The Early Edition6: 39We look at the numbers of hate crime incidents from four major BC municipalities that Statistics Canada has just released this morning

B.C. community leaders say these crimes are under-reported and the data falls short of reflecting the actual amount of racism and other forms of discrimination against marginalized communities.