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  • Writer's pictureAvi Abraham Benlolo

Breaking News: National Police Report Antisemitism Down 20%

03/30/21: Two weeks ago, a violent antisemitic incident occurred in Mid-town Toronto. A Jewish man was violently assaulted. Police immediately launched an investigation, yet the scars of that incident remain on many of its victims.

Still, a national report released by Statistics Canada says there was a 7% national decline in police-reported hate crimes motivated by religion. "This decrease was due to fewer police-reported crimes motivated by hate against the Jewish population, which declined from 372 incidents to 296 incidents in 2019 (-20%)".

In general, police hate crime units across the country reported just 1,946 hate crime incidents in 2019. While the report says hate crimes increased by 7% or 129 incidents in that year, it is markedly lower than in 2017-2019 when hate crimes increased by 47%.

As is the usual case, the report advises that hate crimes targeting the Black and Jewish populations are the most common, representing 18% and 16% of all hate crimes. Hate crimes against the Muslim population rose slightly in 2019, from 166 to 181 incidents (+9%).

Sadly, Statistics Canada says that "Police-reported hate crimes targeting sexual orientation increased 41% in 2019 to 263 incidents, compared with 186 incidents a year earlier".

While the Canadian Jewish community makes up less than 1% of the population, it remains one of the most targeted groups for hate crimes. Most antisemitic incidents go unreported. It remains challenging to quantify antisemitism, for example, on university campuses where students and faculty have felt targeted or marginalized.

In some cases, antisemitic incidents like graffiti may be categorized as either vandalism or mischief. They fall into a grey area and may not necessarily be categorized as hate crime. Over this past year, we have seen a surge in antisemitic graffiti type incidents across the country affecting synagogues, stores, parks and public spaces.

During the Covid-19 epidemic, online hate has exploded on social networking feeds like Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and Instagram. So much so in fact that many of these platforms have recently updated their diversity and respect policies to include antisemitism, hate and bigotry. In the same way, we need our legal system and hate crime data collection system to adapt to this changing virtual world - where hate crime now mainly manifests.

Arguably, 1,946 reported hate crimes incidents in a country of 37+ million citizens is quite low. It is widely known that most hate speech/crime incidents are not reported to police. Some incidents, like the violent antisemitic assault in Toronto either get categorized as a factor of one incident (when in fact it impacted numerous people) or may be classified differently. That remains to be seen.

In fact, the report indicates there is a "case attrition" whereby of the 8,538 police-reported hate crimes, 82% did not result in a charge. Ultimately, only 3% ended up in court and sentenced. The report states: "This was largely due to the fact that an accused person had not been identified by police, most of which was connected to incidents of mischief, such as vandalism or graffiti".

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ABOUT: Avi Abraham Benlolo has been described as the nation's most prominent and noted expert in Holocaust studies, in countering Antisemitism and promoting human rights. He has dedicated nearly three decades in executive capacities in the Jewish community and as a leading voice in Canada. His academic research, graduate degree, Ph.D. coursework and nearly three decades of professional work has focused on these arenas in addition to peace and security in the Middle East. He has published hundreds of articles in these areas. In recognition of his national and international leadership in this area, he has received numerous awards including an Honorary Doctorate from a prestigious Israeli university for his work in Holocaust studies and combating antisemitism; an Order of Vaughan for his distinguished contribution to anti-racism, equity and diversity; the Queens Diamond Jubilee Award for his contributions to Canada and a race relations award for best practice, based on distinguished service in promoting human rights.

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