OTTAWA — The turmoil of the pandemic contributed to the rise of hate and discriminatory behaviour, reflecting historical surges in antisemitism, says the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver.
Ezra Shanken said antisemitism is often recast to fit with current events, and the pandemic was no different, but he expressed sympathy for other communities that also saw a rise of hate-motivated incidents during the early years of the pandemic.
New figures released by Statistics Canada show hate crimes reported to police continued to spike across the country in the second year of the pandemic as people were targeted by race, religion and sexual orientation.
The agency said in a news release Wednesday that all provinces and territories experienced increases in hate crime reports in 2021 except Yukon, where they were unchanged.
The figures show incidents motivated by religion were up 67 per cent across Canada, while reports to police involving sexual orientation rose by 63 per cent, and race-related incidents were up six per cent.
Shanken said Jewish people in Canada were certainly no strangers to discrimination before the pandemic, but the troubling developments for him were the resurrection of antisemitic language and the misappropriation of Holocaust symbols by anti-vaccine groups.
The statistics agency reported the pandemic "exacerbated experiences of discrimination," including hate crimes, and "underscored an increase in discourse" about the issue.
Overall, there were 3,360 hate crimes of all motivations reported to police in 2021, up by 27 per cent, after a 35 per cent increase in 2020.
Reports of hate crime targeting East or Southeast Asians rose 16 per cent to 305 incidents in 2021, a level that is more than four times higher than it was in 2019.
Statistics Canada said community awareness and relations with police can influence whether incidents get reported at all, and just over one in five reported incidents result in charges being recommended or laid.
The agency said the victims and those accused of reported hate crimes are most often men and boys.
In British Columbia, religious hate crime reports more than doubled to 150 in 2021, while in Alberta they tripled to 91 incidents.
In Ontario, hate crimes based on sexual orientation were up 107 per cent.
For Shanken, the numbers released by Statistics Canada underscore the need for Canadians to speak out against incidents of hate, no matter who it's directed at.
"We want a country that's loving, caring, accepting of all people, of all practices, so that people can really find their most fulfilling life right here," he said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 22, 2023.
The Canadian Press