June 15, 2024

Hate-motivated crimes in the Waterloo Region increased by 94 per cent last year, according to new data released by the Waterloo Regional Police Service (WRPS).

These crimes have significantly increased in the region over the past few years. They occur due to people’s biases regarding race, religion, ethnicity, gender, and more, police say, potentially making individuals feel vulnerable and targeted, affecting their sense of belonging and quality of life.

The report prepared by Aaron Mathias, an inspector at the WRPS Community Safety Partnerships, and Dr. Hasan Siddiqui, a data analyst at the WRPS Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Unit, says there were 369 cases of hate-motivated crimes in 2023.

The report notes that hate crimes in the region are mostly race-motivated. Unlike in previous years, hate-motivated crimes targeting sexual orientation were the second highest, surpassing the number of hate crimes that targeted religion.

From 2020 to 2023, 387 hate-motivated crimes targeting race occurred in the region, 190 of which occurred in 2023. Over the years, these crimes often targeted Black individuals; however, recently, the department has seen a spike in hate-motivated crimes targeting South Asian and Arab/West Asian individuals.

From 2020 to 2023, 131 hate-motivated crimes targeted individuals based on their sexual orientation, with 83 occurring in 2023, depicting a massive 159 per cent increase since 2022, the most significant year-to-year increase observed.

From 2020 to 2023, 154 hate-motivated crimes targeting religious groups occurred, 67 of which took place in 2023. A majority of the religion-based crimes targeted Jewish individuals, with 58 out of the 67 religion-based crimes that occurred in 2023 targeting Jewish individuals.

According to a report released by Statistics Canada in 2024, the number of police-reported hate crimes across Canada was 9.2 per cent incidents per 100,000 people in 2022, almost double the rate of 5.2 per cent in 2019. A total of 3,576 hate crime cases were reported to police across Canada.

Another report by Statistics Canada in 2023 revealed that the Tri-Cities had 144 reported hate crimes in 2022, making it the third city in Ontario with the highest number of reported hate crimes, behind Toronto with 847 cases reported and Ottawa with 322 cases. The number of hate crimes doubled within a year in the KWC Region compared to the number of cases in 2021, which was 77.

“Ultimately, it is impossible to know from our data why hate-motivated crime is increasing. Several things could play into that, such as increased trust in the police, which leads to an increase in reporting of these incidents. Hate-motivated crime increasing year-to-year is at least in part due to increased reporting. This is a positive, as it is indicative that people are increasingly turning to police to address matters of hate,” said Cherri Greeno, the director of corporate affairs at WRPS.

The WRPS encourages individuals to come forward if they have been targeted for a hate crime or have witnessed someone being targeted to report the crimes.

“The major challenge with respect to hate-motivated incidents is reporting. Across the academic literature, it is well-established that hate often goes underreported. We make it clear in our reports and public messaging that we want to hear about all hate-motivated incidents, regardless of severity, but we can only ever respond to what is reported,” said Dr. Hasan Siddiqui, a data analyst at the WRPS Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Unit.

In 2023, the department declared combatting hate as a regional priority under the Community Safety and Wellbeing Plan introduced by the region. To address the issue, the department was awarded the Ministry of the Solicitor General Proceeds of Crime Grant to fight hate and promote reporting hate-related crimes.

WRPS plans to establish a regional reporting system, like a phone app, that would provide training to combat hate crimes, raise awareness about the incidents happening in the area, and educate people.

The region passed a new by-law in Sept. 2023 stating that bylaw officers could issue fines to those engaging in hateful harassment on regionally owned properties. The new by-law allows the officers to issue a $250 fine to those engaging in hate-based harassment.

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