Hate crimes down in Canada, but expert warns numbers don’t always tell the whole story

By Dean Recksiedler, Hana Mae Nassar

OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) – The number of people targeted by hate crimes in Canada was down last year for the first time in five years.

Statistics Canada says about 1,800 cases were reported to police, marking a decrease of almost 300 from 2017.

However, Evan Balgord with the Canadian Anti-Hate Network says you have to be careful when trying to break down the stats.

“So a woman’s walking down the street and she has her hijab pulled off. How are we categorizing that? Is it anti-woman? Maybe anti-black? Anti-Arab, anti-Muslim, how are we categorizing that?”

Balgord says you also have to consider many victims of hate crime don’t tell the police what happened, so those incidents aren’t even included in the numbers. Overall, he notes a number of reasons for why the data compiled may not actually paint the full picture.

Hate-motivated crimes apparently “peaked” in 2017. While the number of police-reported hate crimes saw a decrease in 2018 from the year before, Statistics Canada notes the number was still higher than in 2016.

Police-reported crimes in Canada see increase

Overall, police-reported crime in Canada was up two per cent in 2018 for the fourth consecutive year. Statistics Canada says half of the provinces and two of the country’s territories reported a higher Crime Severity Index last year compared with the year before.

They include Prince Edward Island, Ontario, Manitoba, Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, New Brunswick, as well as Newfoundland and Labrador.

The remaining province reported decreases, with the exception of British Columbia and Alberta, which both remained stable.

While Balgord notes the numbers released can be used to indicate general trends, he says they can’t really be used for much else.

“From a methodological standpoint, from a statistics standpoint, from a, kind of, a process of how this data is collected and report for our standpoint, it’s actually very bad data with several flaws.”

Police-reported crimes in Canada are measured by both the crime rate and the Crime Severity Index. The CSI measures the volume and severity of police-reported crimes, Statistics Canada explains.

It reports the homicide rate saw a decline in 2018 from a year earlier, after seeing an increase in 2017.

“Far fewer homicides were reported in Alberta (-38), British Columbia (-30), Quebec (-10) and Nova Scotia (-10) in 2018,” Statistics Canada says. “With the exception of Alberta, these decreases followed notable increases in 2017.”

-With files from Lauren Boothby

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