The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Disproportionate Harm
Hate Crime in Canada

(2 of 4) Toronto

The Metropolitan Toronto Police Force began to systematically collect data on hate crimes in January 1993. This activity is part of an extensive hate crime initiative which reaches into the community. In addition to its investigative activities, the Hate Crime Unit also participates in public education in the area. For example, hate crime and hate propaganda posters and pamphlets have been developed and distributed to schools in the Toronto area. Members of the Hate Crime Unit also receive additional training. One benefit of the statistical data collected to date is that the Hate Crime Unit has initiated consultations with educators, community groups as well as other police officers in order to establish additional partnerships aimed at preventing and responding to crimes motivated by hate or bias. Since data for the whole of 1994 were not available at the time this report was written, most of the Toronto data discussed here come from 1993.

Table 7 provides a breakdown of hate crimes as a function of the nature of the group targeted. As can be seen, racial minorities account for the greatest percentage of incidents (50 percent), followed by religious groups (35 percent), sexual orientation (10 percent) and then ethnicity/nationality (5 percent). It should be noted that this breakdown may well reflect differential willingness to turn to the criminal justice system. If, as the research literature in other countries suggests, gay individuals are less likely to report crimes to the police, these statistics may under-represent the threat to the gay community, relative to other minorities, racial or otherwise.

Additional information was provided by the Toronto Police Service regarding the nature of the targets within specific target groups. Almost half (48 percent) of the racial incidents were directed against black individuals. The next most frequently targeted groups were East Indians (22 percent of incidents) and Asians (8 percent). Thirteen percent of the incidents were classified as multi-bias incidents and 8 percent were hate crimes directed at white targets. Turning to the classification of crimes in terms of ethnicity rather than race, it is clear that no particular ethnic group was targeted more frequently than any other. Almost all (94 percent) of the sexual orientation hate crimes were directed at gay males rather than lesbians. Not surprisingly, in light of the data from other sources, the vast majority of religious hate crimes (89 percent) were anti-semitic in nature.

Table 8 presents a breakdown of the Toronto police data according to offence category. Mischief (over and under combined) accounts for 39 percent of incidents recorded by the police. Assault is the next most frequent category, accounting for one incident in four.

The data from Toronto also show that personal injury offences are more likely to be directed to racial minorities, as the following statistics for the two most frequent offence categories reveal. Of the assault reports, over three-quarters (77 percent) were directed at racial groups. Religious groups were more likely to be the victims of property crimes: almost a third of mischief offences were directed at religious groups, but only seven percent of the assaults were directed at this target category (see Table 9).

The Toronto data are also useful because they provide some insight into the typical offender. The majority of the offenders arrested for a hate crime were young males under 20 years of age. Most were first offenders. These findings are consistent with research conducted in other jurisdictions. Thus Levin and McDevitt (1993) report that in New York City, the median age of hate crime offenders was 18, almost 10 years younger than the median for offenders in general. In Sweden, most hate crime offenders were under twenty at the time of the commission of the offence (see Loow, 1995).

Data from the first six months of 1994 show a modest increase in the proportion of all hate crimes directed at racial groups (50 to 58 percent) with a corresponding decline in the amount of hate crime involving religious groups. This is worth noting because it means there has been an increase in the proportion of hate crimes involving offences against the person, since racial hate crimes are far more likely to involve violence (than are hate crimes directed at religious targets - see below).

The data from the first half of 1994 are also noteworthy because they suggest an increase in the absolute level of hate crime activity in the city of Toronto. A total of 112 occurrences were recorded in this period. This is a 55 percent increase in reported hate crime incidents over the preceding year. However, it is important to point out that as with changes in other crime trends, this increase could also reflect an increased willingness to report such incidents to the criminal justice system. The police appear to attribute the increase to greater public confidence in the Metropolitan Toronto Force. <A memorandum from the Chief of Police notes that: "The 51% increase of reported hate crime incidents is indicative of the increased community awareness and the Force's commitment to its proactive strategy. The increase further appears to be an indicator of the public's confidence in having the police properly investigate these offences" (p.2).>

It seems more likely that the increase reflects a genuine increase in the number of hate crimes as well as a shift in the mix of offences. The trend observed in the police statistics confirms what was noted in the B'nai Brith data from the same year (see later section of this report). Since the B'nai Brith data are independent of the police and are unaffected by public expectations of the criminal justice response, this suggests a genuine increase in offending. As for the offence mix, it is clear that there has been an increase in the proportion of hate crimes that involve violence, and personal injury offences are more likely to be reported to the police than crimes involving property. This would have the effect of inflating the statistics. Police de la Communaute urbaine de Montreal

This police service began collecting data on anti-semitic incidents in 1988. In 1990, racially-motivated crimes were added and this was followed in 1992 by the creation of a computerized database, to which officers were required to submit reports. The hate crime initiative was formally created in 1994, and comprehensive reports on hate crime activity are now released on a regular basis (three times a year). As well, an annual report is published. In addition to the collection of systematic statistics and the prosecution of hate crimes, individuals from the Montreal force also participate in conferences and workshops on the subject of responding to hate crimes. For the purposes of the present report, findings derive from the period January 1, 1994 to December 31, 1994. In this period there were 199 incidents of hate-motivated crimes in the Montreal community that were recorded by the police. Of these, the vast majority (79 percent) were directed at racial minorities: no other target category accounted for more than nine percent of the incidents recorded (see Table 10).

Overall, two-thirds of the hate crime incidents recorded in Montreal in 1994 involved crimes against the person, with the remaining one-third classified as property crimes. A more detailed offence breakdown is provided in Table 11. As can be seen, assault was the offence which accounted for the greatest percentage of reports (34 percent).

An interesting interaction exists between the nature of the crime and the particular group targeted. Hate crimes directed against gays are significantly more likely to involve violence. Thus almost nine out of ten hate crimes against gay targets involve violence, while only 30 percent of anti-semitic hate crimes involved a crime against the person. Anti-black hate crimes fell between these two extremes: 69 percent of hate crime incidents were crimes against the person. The 1994 annual report concludes from this that the anti-sem tic incidents are the work of racist organizations, while the other two categories are more likely to be accounted for by individual acts of racial intolerance.

Since 1994 was the first year of full collection of comprehensive data, historical comparisons are problematic. However, examination of the anti-semitic statistics show a relatively stable pattern over the period 1988 to 1992, with a significant increase over the last two years for which such statistics are available (1992-1994). It is not clear what is responsible for this recent increase, although it seems consistent with increases elsewhere. The final observation about the Montreal data is that several districts have particularly high rates of hate crime incidents. Thus while two-thirds of the districts have relatively uniform rates, five districts report numbers of incidents up to five times in excess of the area average.

Data from the Montreal police also provide information on the criminal justice outcome in hate crime incidents. A criminal charge was laid in 17 percent of the 198 <15 Charges were laid against 33 accused out of a total of 190 incidents (8 incidents were declared "unfounded").> incidents reported. While this may seem like a small percentage, two considerations should be borne in mind. First, a significant number of hate crimes are directed against property, and a criminal charge is laid in only a small percentage of property crimes recorded by the police. For example, in 1993 (the most recent year for which data are available), the "cleared by charge" statistic for Canada (aggregated across offences) was 16 percent (Canadian Center for Justice Statistics, 1994). Second, it is clear from research in other jurisdictions that hate crimes are notoriously hard to clear by the laying of a charge. A charge rate for hate crimes that is slightly higher than the average rate of charging shows the additional effort that police agencies have directed to this form of criminality.

The original plaintext version of this file is available via ftp.

[ Previous | Index | Next ] [an error occurred while processing this directive]