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Police-reported hate crimes rose dramatically in 2020 in Greater Victoria

Regional rate of 8.3 crimes/100,000 population 12th in Canada, B.C. rate tops provinces
While Greater Victoria residents showed their support for Black Lives Matter in 2020, new figures show the number of police-reported hate crimes in the metropolitan area rose by 97 per cent in 2020 over the previous year. (Black Press Media file photo).

A new report points to Greater Victoria as an emerging national hotspot for hate crimes.

Among census metropolitan areas (CMAs) with at least 10 hate crimes reported to police, Victoria CMA’s 97-per-cent increase in such incidents between 2019 and 2020 ranks third highest in the country, according to figures from the Canadian Centre for Justice and Community Safety released through Statistics Canada.

Only Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo (up 253 per cent) and Peterborough (126 per cent) CMAs had higher increases year over year than Victoria.

Based on population, the B.C. capital region’s 8.3 police-reported hate crimes per 100,000 people in 2020 – that translates to between 33 and 38 incidents overall – ranked it 12th in Canada and was higher than the national average of seven. The near-doubling of incidents reported pushed Victoria CMA up from 20th place on the national list in 2019.

Vancouver CMA recorded B.C.’s highest rate with 13.8 cases/100K, and the fourth-highest in Canada. Victoria’s rate was also higher than Abbotsford-Mission CMA (3.9/100K) and Kelowna CMA (2.3/100K).

The report does not detail why police-reported hate crimes rose in Victoria CMA, but points to two broader categories of potential causes.

The first points to a general disconnect between stated public policies (including official multiculturalism) protecting specific populations and practice. “Indigenous peoples and those designated as visible minorities generally report feeling less safe than the rest of the population, in some cases are much more likely to be overrepresented in the justice system, and along with sexual minorities, are more likely to report experiencing discrimination and victimization,” it reads.

The second concerns the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The (pandemic) … further brought to light the varying experiences and perceptions of some of Canada’s diverse population, as well as the systemic barriers they face, including varying levels of perceived safety and self-reported victimization.” Within this context, the report points to the rise of hate crimes targeting East or Southeast Asian populations, undoubtedly a legacy of false, populist rhetoric that initially framed COVID-19 as a ‘Chinese’ disease.

Overall, Canadian police reported 2,669 hate-motivated criminal incidents in 2020, the largest number recorded since comparable data became available in 2009.

B.C.’s incident report total grew by 198 over 2019, second-most only behind Ontario’s 316. But the B.C. increase for 2020 pushed it to top spot among the provinces with a rate of 10.1 police-reported hate crimes per 100,000 population.

Looking at the Canadian numbers more closely, hate crimes motivated by hatred of a race or ethnicity represented 62 per cent of the total – a substantial increase over previous years, the report states – while religion-related hate crimes dropped to 20 per cent.

RELATED: UVic study shows hate crimes against Asian Canadians increase during pandemic

Crimes motivated by hatred of a sexual orientation accounted for 10 per cent of the total, while those targeting such factors as language, disability, age, and sex or gender comprised seven per cent, similar proportions seen in recent years.

Separating incidents by physicality, the report stated that non-violent hate crimes rose 41 per cent, while violent hate crimes were up 32 per cent.

While the report does not directly reference the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States and elsewhere, including Canada, 2020 was also a high watermark for that movement, drawing broad support, but also encouraging opposition from the fringes.

The report notes that the number of police-reported crimes motivated by hatred of a race or ethnicity increased 80 per cent, from 884 to 1,594. Much of this increase was “the result of more police-reported hate crimes targeting the Black population (+ 318 incidents), East or Southeast Asian population (+202 incidents), the Indigenous population (+44 incidents) and the South Asian population (+38 incidents).”

The report states police-reported statistics capture only crimes that come to the attention of police or other authorities and other studies have found that a large number of incidents perceived to be motivated by hate went un-reported for a number of reasons, including but not only “a lack of confidence or trust in the police or other social institutions.”

RELATED: PHOTOS: Thousands attend rally for Black lives in downtown Victoria

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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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