The number of hate crimes in Hamilton hit its highest level in 2021 since 2012, according to new police data.
The Hamilton Police Service recorded 21 hate crimes last year, more than 2019, 2018 and 2017 combined.
Police also reported 108 hate-motivated incidents last year (87 of which were non-crimes), a 35% increase from 2020, but average from previous years.
“The increase is concerning,” said Pat Mandy, chairman of the police board and member of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, during a meeting Thursday afternoon.
Mandy and Det. acting Both Fabiano Mendes said the numbers are likely underreported because not everyone approaches the police with hate crimes and incidents.
Mendes said the increase in hate incidents and crimes in Hamilton is part of a larger trend across Canada. New data from Statistics Canada shows that the number of hate crimes reported to police across the country increased by 37% in 2020.
He referred to other circumstances, such as the pandemic, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a rise in alt-right ideologies and the “senseless murder” of a Muslim family in London, Ontario, last year.
Hamilton struggled with a reputation for hate. Statistics Canada data shows it had the highest rate of hate crimes per capita in the country in 2019, 2018, 2016 and 2014.
Black, Jewish, Muslim and LGBTQ people most targeted
Almost all of the local hate crimes and incidents reported in Hamilton last year targeted Black, Jewish, Muslim and LGBTQ communities.
Of these, 49 involved racial bias, 38 involved religion, 19 involved sexual orientation and two involved gender identity.
The police report shows there were 36 incidents targeting black people, 24 targeting Jews, 14 targeting Muslims and 19 targeting gay people.
These figures indicate a sharp increase in incidents against the Muslim community and gay people considering that there was only one reported incident against Muslims in 2020 and two reported anti-gay incidents the year before. .
Statistics show that other target groups include:
- East and Southeast Asians (three incidents).
- South Asians (eight incidents).
- Blanks (one incident).
- Aboriginals (one incident).
- Other race (one incident).
- Transgender people (two incidents).
The data comes as police set up a hate crimes case review team. The police department is holding meetings with community groups to form the team, which will develop recommendations to improve outcomes for victims of hate crimes.
Police Chief Frank Bergen encouraged citizens to report any incidents they might witness.
Local calls for tougher hate crime laws grow, march planned
The police statistics were released following an outcry over a Confederate Flag Viewing at Binbrook which caught the attention of anti-hate groups and sparked a “community walkat Binbrook scheduled for Saturday afternoon.
“Why would anyone think that’s okay?” Amie Archibald-Varley, the resident who first became publicly concerned about the racist flag and who is organizing the march, previously told CBC News.
Police said they cannot lay charges or ask the owner to remove the flag because it is legal to fly it on private property.
Last summer, Hamilton city councilors voted to ban the Nazi flag and swastika from city property, calling them symbols of hate.
The sighting prompted Mayor Fred Eisenberger to say he would propose a motion to the city council asking that the provincial and federal governments take action to ban symbols like the Confederate flag.
Eisenberger and Archibald-Varley joined community groups and local rabbis at City Hall on Friday to call for tougher laws.
“I had to explain racism to my kids at seven and 10… My daughter even asked me this morning, ‘Why do people hate us because of the color of our skin?'” Archibald said. – Varley.
The group of community leaders expressed their support for Bill C-229a private member’s bill that would codify hate symbols – like flags – into existing legislation and make it easier for police to act.
“The [hate crime] data can’t speak to trauma, doesn’t hold individuals accountable – that’s why we need legislation to hold individuals accountable,” said Lyndon George, executive director of the Hamilton Anti-Racism Resource Centre.
Kojo Damptey, executive director of the Hamilton Center For Civic Inclusion, said the city should impose a bylaw banning hate symbols on private property, in addition to the existing bylaw that bans hate symbols on city-owned land.
Eisenberger said he doesn’t know if the city could enforce this bylaw or if it would even be enforceable.
Some also shared their own experiences with racism and their thoughts on seeing the Confederate flag.
“Just yesterday we commemorated Holocaust Memorial Day – for those who know history, it all starts with rhetoric and symbolism and if we don’t stop at the points of rhetoric and symbolism, we lost that game,” said Rabbi Daniel Green, with Congregation Adas Israel in Hamilton.
Rabbi Hillel Lavery-Yisrareli of Beth Jacob Synagogue in Hamilton told reporters his family was heckled over the weekend for being visibly Jewish.
He said blacks, aboriginals, gays, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs and immigrants feel unsafe in Hamilton, calling it a “mark of shame”.
He said it is everyone’s responsibility to work together to change this.
“There can be nothing more urgent, no cause more worth investing in money, time, effort and education,” Lavery-Yisrareli said.