TORONTO — With the release of the Toronto Police Service’s annual Hate/Bias Crime Statistical Report, members of the Jewish community might well ask themselves, is the glass half full or half empty?
The 2014 report found that hate crimes reported to police went up by 11 per cent over 2013 and that Jews were the single most targeted group in Toronto, followed by blacks and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community. The total number of occurrences affecting all groups was 146 – in a city of 2.7 million people.
Nevertheless, Jews seemed to be singled out. Though comprising only 3.8 per cent of the city’s population, Jews were the victims of racist attacks 44 times, or in fully 30 per cent of occurrences. Add in four attacks on Israelis, who were categorized as a separate victim group, and 33 per cent of victims were likely Jews, though Israeli victims could in theory include Christians, Muslims or Druze.
LGBTQs were the victims in 27 occurrences, followed by blacks in 20 cases. Next came Muslims, who were victimized 16 times. Single incidents were recorded in the cases of people from Korean, Chinese, Pakistani and Catholic backgrounds.
Other categories included “white” and “brown” and an additional 14 “multibias” occurrences were recorded, in which Jews again featured prominently, and in some cases, somewhat unusually.
In addition to the 44 incidents involving Jews, additional single incidents involved “Jewish/LGBTQ/Muslim,” “Jewish/LGBTQ/Black,” “Jewish/Somali,” “Jewish/Muslim,” “Jewish/Black,” “Jewish/Jehovah’s Witness,” and “Jewish/LGBTQ/Canadians/Americans/British.”
These brought up the total involving Jews combined with another identity to 52 – not including the four Israeli victims.
Len Rudner, director of community relations and outreach for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), said the findings should be seen in context.
“The report speaks to a fundamental truth. Canada is a great country to live in and Toronto is a great city to live in. But the fact hate crimes occur in Toronto should be of concern to everybody. The fact the numbers are up is a concern. The fact that Jews were the most targeted is a concern,” he said.
“We have to pay attention to these things, but we can’t let them define us. There’s more to being a Jew in Toronto than being the victim of hate crimes.
“I think if we remember that every incident represents a school, a synagogue or an individual that has been told they did not belong, and even if it happens once, it is significant and it is worth noting,” he added.
The three most common offences reported to police included “mischief to property, assault and criminal harassment. The Jewish community and the black community were the most victimized group for mischief to property occurrences, while the LGBTQ community was the most victimized group for assault occurrences,” the report stated.
Altogether, 22 people were arrested in connection with hate-motivated crimes. Since most incidents involved property offences, such as graffiti and vandalism where there are no witnesses, investigating the events has proven a challenge, the report stated.
The report also noted that the findings might “not be a true reflection of the prevalence of hate/bias crimes occurring in Toronto,” since they are likely being under-reported to police.
Of the 44 incidents involving Jews as the victim group, 38 involved mischief, including three that involved a religious property, two were assaults, one was described as criminal harassment and three incidents involved death threats.
The Israeli victims faced two cases of wilful promotion of hatred and one each of mischief and being threatened with death.
The largest number of incidents involving Jews took place in 32 Division, which runs from Steeles Avenue in the north to Lawrence Avenue in the south and from Bayview Avenue in the east to the CNR tracks to the west of Dufferin Street.