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Canadian Jews experienced a spike in hate crimes in 2017

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Yeshivas Lubavitch in Toronto. (Google Street View)

The number of hate crimes in Canada soared to a new high in 2017, with Jews holding the dubious distinction of being the most targeted victim group, according to police data compiled by Statistics Canada.

While hate crimes overall rose by 47 per cent over 2016, the number of incidents involving Jews climbed by nearly 63 per cent.

“Hate crimes against the Jewish population increased for the second consecutive year, rising from 221 in 2016 to 360 in 2017. Hate crimes targeting the Jewish population accounted for 18 per cent of all hate crimes in Canada,” according to Police-Reported Hate Crime, 2017, a document released by Statistics Canada on Nov. 29.

Jews made up the largest victim group in 2017 even though Canada’s Jewish population of around  375,000 makes up just over one per cent of the country’s inhabitants.

Altogether, police reported 2,073 hate crimes across the country, 664 more than in 2016.

Most of the incidents targeting Jews occurred in Ontario, with 209, followed by British Columbia with 68 and Quebec with 49.

The vast majority of all hate incidents were non-violent. Although Jews were not specifically referenced in that set of data, StatsCan reported that 631 of 842 incidents involving hate crimes motivated by the religion of the victim were non-violent, mostly mischief offences.

However, police reported 75 instances of public incitement to hatred or advocating genocide. In addition, there were 195 situations involving violence, including 40 assaults and 94 cases of uttering threats, along with 31 incidents of criminal harassment.

Muslims, whose Canadian contingent tallies more than a million, were the unlucky runners-up to Jews as the second-most  targeted group for hate crimes.

“Following a decrease in hate crimes against the Muslim population in 2016, numbers more than doubled in 2017 (+151 per cent). There were 349 such incidents, 210 more than in 2016,” the report stated.

Black people were next in line, experiencing  321 incidents, followed by individuals victimized because of their sexual orientation, who faced 204 occurrences.

For Jews, the last three years have seen a steady increase in the number of incidents of hate crimes, from 178 in 2015 (13 per cent of all occurrences), to 221 in 2016 (16 per cent) to 360 in 2017 (18 per cent).

The trend is in line with an increase in anti-Semitic attacks around the world in recent years.

READ: JEWS AGAIN HEAD THE LIST OF GROUPS TARGETED BY HATE CRIMES IN TORONTO

On Nov. 13, the FBI reported  that hate crimes in the United States rose in 2017 by 17 per cent, to 7,175, while the number of hate-crime incidents targeting Jews increased 37 per cent, to 938.

Israel’s 2017 Anti-Semitism Report indicated a substantial increase in racist incidents against Jews in Europe, especially in the western parts of the continent, according to ynetnews.com.

Responding to the Canadian findings, Avi Benlolo, president and CEO of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies (FSWC) said, “While we are not surprised, this number is an alarming call to action for government, police and educators especially.

“The sharp increase is evidence that Holocaust education and advocacy is necessary now more than ever.”

Benlolo also pointed to a Nanos Research poll commissioned by FSWC over the summer that found that 15 per cent of Canadians harbour antisemitic attitudes, representing more than 5 million citizens.

“After the attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh last month, it is time for everyone to understand that anti-Semitism is lethal,” Benlolo added.

“This year’s StatsCan report is simply too stark to ignore, and reiterates what B’nai Brith has been saying for years – that we need real and effective measures to extinguish this rise in hatred,” said Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada.

B’nai Brith urges “the adoption of a standardized definition of an anti-Semitic hate crime, as well as better reporting for racist and anti-Semitic incidents that do not meet the criminal threshold,” Mostyn said.

He also suggested adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism creating the position of an ambassador or special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism and strengthening Holocaust education.

While expressing his appreciation for  a promised increase to security funding, Shimon Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), called on the Canadian government to take three steps to combat hate.

“First, we are grateful that the prime minister announced he will enhance the Security Infrastructure Program. We urge the government to expand it to cover training costs, especially given that emergency training saved lives during the Pittsburgh synagogue attack.

“Second, we need a national strategy to combat online hate. Experience shows that vicious rhetoric online can fuel and foreshadow violence offline.

“Third, the federal government should strengthen the capacity of law enforcement to combat hate crime. This should include enhancing legal tools to deal with hate speech and supporting the creation of local hate crime units where they are lacking,” he said.