Frank Dimant, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada
A 71 per cent increase in religiously-motivated hate crimes that specifically target the Jewish community is cause for alarm, according to Frank Dimant, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada.
Statistics Canada figures released this week show 7 in 10 religiously-motivated hate crimes were committed against those of the Jewish faith in 2009.
Police are reporting a significant spike in such hate crimes — 283 in 2009, according to the StatsCan report.
“We are very disturbed by the findings of this study,” said Mr. Dimant, who called for more resources to combat the problem.
“Not only did the number of hate crimes rise in general, but the role of religion as a motivating factor has become more pronounced.”
Studies show the problem has been steadily increasing. Canadian police services reported a 42 per cent increase in hate crimes of all kinds between 2008 and 2009.
This followed a 35 per cent increase in 2008.
The largest increase in hate crimes was among those motivated by religion, which rose 55 per cent in 2009.
The number of police-reported hate crimes against all racial groups rose in 2009. The largest increase in racially motivated crimes were against Arabs or West Asians, which doubled from 37 incidents in 2008 to 75 in 2009.
People of African descent continued to be the most commonly targeted racial group, accounting for 272 incidents in 2009, and about 38 per cent of all racially-motivated incidents.
While crimes against the Jewish faith increased most substantially, those against the Muslim faith (Islam) also increased, from 26 incidents in 2008 to 36 in 2009. Police reported 33 hate crimes against Catholics, three more than in 2008.
Thornhill MP Peter Kent agreed the statistics are troubling, and likely under-reported.
A parliamentary coalition to combat anti-Semitism, which is expected to release its report this summer, heard testimony indicating only 10 per cent of hate crimes are reported, and only the most blatant forms, he said.
“We realize it is a problem,” he said. “It’s going to take community vigilance and police forces, prosecutors and judges to familiarize themselves with forms of hate. Sometimes it’s difficult for them to recognize.”
Hate crime, he said, has its roots in ignorance. “It’s the original form of hate and it’s never been stamped out. There is an element in human nature that loves to exploit it. Each generation needs to be educated.”
While the federal government has been pumping money into solving the problem — Mr. Kent announced in March an additional $355,000 in federal support for security infrastructure improvements to protect 17 Ontario community organizations — Mr. Diamant said more is needed.
He called on all levels of government, as well as law enforcement agencies, to dedicate further resources to combat the problem.
The B’nai Brith operates an Anti-Hate Hotline (1-800-892-2624) to provide assistance to victims of anti-Semitism.