Twenty-one percent spike in B.C. hate crimes during pandemic

Muhi Bakini

Race remains the main motivator for hate incidents, but crimes targeting religion are also up

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.

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.

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.

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