Ottawa police see sharp increase in hate crimes for 2nd straight year

Ottawa police say reports of hate-motivated incidents rose sharply in 2021, the second year in a row that there has been a significant increase in numbers.

The 43.6% increase means police investigated 340 incidents last year, up from 181 in 2020, according to a news release on Friday. The majority of them, 260, were found to be criminals, police said.

Police have charged 26 people with 92 criminal offences, while issuing formal warnings to nine people and two youths.

There was also a big increase last year, when reports of hate crimes rose by 56%, compared to 116 incidents in 2019.

While the trend is concerning, it’s not even the complete picture, said Sgt. Ali Toghrol, Head of the Ottawa Police Service Hate Crimes Unit

Based on available national data, police estimate they only hear about 35 to 40 percent of hate-motivated incidents that occur, Toghrol said.

New unit could boost reports, Sergeant says

Two years ago, Ottawa police formed an intelligence unit team to focus specifically on hate crimes, hoping to hear more reports from the community, Toghrol said.

“That element of trust exists in the community that if they’re going to report incidents, they know there’s a dedicated unit specifically to look into those types of issues,” Toghrol said.

Toghrol said PAHO has an online tool for people to report hate incidents and plans to go further by allowing third parties to make such reports as well.

The increase may simply mean that the three-member team is doing the job expected, he said.

“It’s very, very important for our racialized communities to feel safe and protected. Almost everyone in the community should feel that way.”

sergeant. Ali Toghrol is the head of the Ottawa Police’s three-person Hate Crimes Unit. (Radio Canada)

Online activity can fuel hate

Toghrol pointed to other possible causes for the increase, including political dramas that have spilled into Canada from around the world — and particularly from the United States.

“It’s very easy to find like-minded people who share the same racist, misogynistic and xenophobic views and to share information and also to be able to radicalize people online,” he said.

Police said the city’s most victimized groups in 2021 included Jews, Blacks, LGBTQ+, Arabs, Muslims, and East and South Asians.

The most serious charges laid included assault with a weapon, threats and mischief to property. Toghrol said the vast majority of hate crimes reported at the truck protest are still being investigated.

Toghrol also said incidents of anti-Asian racism increased in 2020 due to misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic.

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