Police-reported hate crime in Canada, 2011
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by Mary Allen and Jillian Boyce
- Police-reported hate crimes decreased in 2011
- Race/ethnicity most common motivation for hate crime
- Mischief most common police-reported hate crime offence
- About half of police-reported hate crimes occurred in Ontario
- Majority of police-reported hate crimes occurred in major cities
- Males, young adults commonly victims of police-reported hate crime
- Youth and young adults most commonly accused in hate crimes
- Relatively few hate crime cases completed in Canadian courts
- Survey descriptions
- Detailed data tables
The composition of Canada’s population continues to change and is becoming increasingly diverse. In 2011, 19% of Canadians were members of a visible minority, up from 16% in 2006.1 By 2011, 38% of the population of Canada’s three largest cities (Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver) were visible minorities. The number of reported same-sex couple families also increased in 2011, up 42% from 2006. The proportion of people who reported religious affiliations other than Christianity has also grown, with 7.2% of the Canadian population affiliating as Muslim, Hindu, Sikh or Buddhist in 2011 compared to 4.9% in 2001. The Jewish population has remained stable at 1%.
In a diverse society, the potential can arise for acts of discrimination between individuals or groups (Chongatera 2013). When a criminal act is motivated by hate, it is considered a hate crime. Hate crimes can be either violent or non-violent in nature, and affect not only individual victims of the crime, but also the groups targeted. Hate crimes are not only a focus of social concern in Canada, but around the world as well. As a member of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Canada works with other countries to monitor and combat hate crime (ODIHR 2012).
In Canada, four specific offences are listed as hate crimes in the Criminal Code: advocating genocide, public incitement of hatred, wilful promotion of hatred, and mischief in relation to religious property. In addition, section 718.2(a)(i) of the Criminal Code allows for increased penalties when sentencing any criminal offence (such as assault or mischief) where there is evidence that the offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hatred toward a particular group.
This report uses data from the 2011 Incident-based Uniform Crime Reporting Survey (UCR2), which collects information from police services, to examine police-reported hate crime in Canada. More specifically, this report looks at the number of police-reported hate crime incidents in various jurisdictions as well as the characteristics of these incidents, victims, and those accused of these crimes. For the survey, a hate crime is defined as a criminal offence committed against a person or property, where there is evidence that the offence was motivated by hate, based on the victim’s race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or any other similar factor.
Information on hate crimes is subject to reporting behaviour. The number of incidents actually reported to police as hate crimes may be influenced by public awareness and concern, as well as special hate crime initiatives and policies among police services. This report looks only at police-reported hate crimes, which likely underestimate the true extent of hate crime of various types. According to the 2009 General Social Survey on Victimization (GSS), for example, about one-third of respondents who said they had been victims of hate-motivated incidents reported the incidents to the police (Dauvergne and Brennan 2011).
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Self-reported incidents perceived to be motivated by hate
The General Social Survey (GSS) on Victimization is a survey of Canadian adults which includes information on incidents motivated by hate in Canada.2 Unlike the Uniform Crime Reporting Survey (UCR), which collects police-reported incidents of hate-motivated crime, the GSS collects information based on the perception of the individual who experienced the incident. Incidents reported in the GSS may not have been reported to the police and therefore have not been confirmed or substantiated like incidents reported in UCR2.
In 2009, the GSS on Victimization asked a sample of Canadians, aged 15 years and older, if they had been a victim in the previous 12 months of any of the following offences: sexual assault, robbery, physical assault, break and enter, theft of motor vehicles or parts, theft of household property, theft of personal property and vandalism. If respondents reported that they had been a victim of one of the specified crimes, they were then asked if they believed that incident was motivated by hate, and if so, to state the perceived motivation(s).
Overall, 5% of all incidents (close to 399,000 incidents) reported in the 2009 GSS were believed, by victims, to have been motivated by hate, compared to 3% (or about 262,000 incidents) in 2004. Similar to 2004 results, race was the most commonly perceived motivation for hate crime incidents (65%). Other motivations included age (30%), sex (22E%), religion (16E%) and sexual orientation (11E%) (Dauvergne and Brennan 2011).3
The GSS also collected information on the emotional consequences of victimization, which appear to be more severe for victims who perceived the incident to be motivated by hate. More specifically, in 2009, 91% of victims who perceived the incident to be motivated by hate said they were emotionally affected by the incident, compared to 81% of victims who did not perceive the incident to be hate-motivated. The most common emotional reactions for victims who perceived the crime to be motivated by hate were anger (38%), feeling upset, confused or frustrated (25%) and fear (20%E) (Dauvergne and Brennan 2011). Emotional consequences were the same for victims of non-violent hate crimes and victims of violent hate crimes (Dowden and Brennan 2012).
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Police-reported hate crimes decreased in 2011
There were 1,332 hate crime incidents reported by police services in 2011, marking a 5% decrease from 2010 (Table 1). Overall, there were 3.9 incidents per 100,000 population in 2011, down from 4.1 incidents the previous year (Chart 1).
The Uniform Crime Reporting Survey collects police-reported information on hate crimes: whether an incident involved one of the four specific hate crimes listed in the Criminal Code, or if it involved a criminal offence motivated by hate. The survey also includes detailed characteristics of the incidents, including information on violent and non-violent offences, as well as some information on victims and accused.
The collection of police-reported hate crime data occurs at the time the incident is reported. Depending on the level of evidence at the time of the incident, police can record it as either a “suspected” or “confirmed” hate-motivated crime. As more information is gathered, incidents are reviewed and verified and their status may be reclassified. Of the 1,332 hate crimes reported in 2011 and examined in this report, 79% were confirmed by police as hate motivated. The remaining 21% were recorded as suspected hate crimes.
Race/ethnicity most common motivation for hate crime
Hate crimes motivated by race or ethnicity accounted for about half (52%) of police-reported hate crime incidents in 2011 (679 incidents). Hate crimes that are motivated by hatred toward a particular religion (religiously motivated hate crime) accounted for 25% or 326 incidents, and hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation accounted for another 18% or 240 incidents. The remaining 5% of hate crimes were motivated by language, mental or physical disability, sex, age or some other similar factor (such as occupation or political beliefs) (Chart 2).4
Between 2010 and 2011, there was a decline (-4%) in the number of police-reported incidents motivated by race or ethnicity, as well as in hate crimes motivated by religion (-17%). At the same time, there was a 10% increase in police-reported hate crime incidents motivated by sexual orientation.
While the number of hate crime incidents varies from year to year, some aspects of hate crime have remained constant. As in previous years, race or ethnicity continued to be the most common motivation for hate crime, with black populations the most frequently targeted (21% of all hate crimes). For religiously motivated hate crime, there has also been little change over time; hate crimes targeting Jewish populations continue to be the most common (15% of all hate crimes) (Table 2).
Mischief most common police-reported hate crime offence
In 2011, mischief (which includes vandalism, graffiti and other destruction of property) was the most commonly reported offence among police-reported hate crimes. Overall, incidents involving mischief comprised half (50%) of all police-reported hate crime incidents in 2011 (Chart 3). Among religious hate crimes, however, 75% of incidents involved mischief (Table 3).
Overall, the majority of police-reported hate crimes involved non-violent offences. The number of non-violent hate crimes fell 16% between 2010 and 2011, mostly as a result of a decline in hate crimes motivated by religion, or by race or ethnicity.
The number of violent hate crimes, however, increased in 2011, following a decline the previous year. The proportion of police-reported hate crime incidents involving violent offences rose from 34% in 2010 to 39% in 2011; this was driven primarily by an increase in the number of violent hate crimes motivated by race or ethnicity (Chart 4).5 Hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation were the most likely to involve violent offences (65%).
The most frequent violent offence was assault, reported in 22% of all hate crimes. Two-thirds (68%) of these assaults were common assault (level 1)6. Common assault was most frequent in hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation, or race or ethnicity. Incidents involving any type of assault were much less common in religious hate crime incidents. Instead, uttering threats was the most frequent type of violent offence among religious hate crimes.
On the whole, the majority of police-reported hate crime incidents (94%) were criminal offences deemed to have been motivated by hate rather than specific offences defined as hate crime offences in the Criminal Code. For the offences defined as hate crimes under the Criminal Code, mischief in relation to religious property accounted for 5% of hate crimes in 2011 (23% of religious hate crime incidents), while public incitement of hatred (including wilful promotion of hatred) accounted for 1% of hate crimes.7
About half of police-reported hate crimes occurred in Ontario
Ontario, representing 37% of Canada’s population, accounted for just over half of all police-reported hate crimes in 2011 (51%) (Table 4). The rate of hate crime in Ontario was 5.2 per 100,000 population. Despite relatively small numbers, both Northwest Territories and the Prince Edward Island, with small populations, recorded the highest hate crime rates (11.4 and 8.2 per 100,000, respectively) (Chart 5). Prince Edward Island reported 12 hate crimes in 2011, and the Northwest Territories reported 5.
Majority of police-reported hate crimes occurred in major cities
The majority (79%) of police-reported hate crimes in Canada occurred in major cities (Census Metropolitan Areas, CMAs).8 Overall, the ten largest cities in Canada, representing 51% of the population covered by the survey, accounted for 64% of hate crimes in 2011.9
Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver, the three largest CMAs in Canada, accounted for 38% of police-reported hate crime incidents. These three CMAs, however, did not have the highest police-reported hate crime rates. The highest rates of hate crime in 2011 were in Peterborough and Hamilton (Chart 6, Table 5).10
Information from police services suggests that differences in the prevalence of police-reported hate crime can be influenced by a variety of factors. For example, the presence (or absence) of a dedicated hate crime unit or training program within a particular police service may influence the resources available for the investigation of a hate crime. Similarly, the presence (or absence) of community support programs, public awareness campaigns, zero tolerance policies, and victim assistance programs may impact the willingness or ability of community members to report incidents to police.
It is important to recognize that, according to police services, higher rates of police-reported hate crime in certain jurisdictions may reflect differences in the recognition, reporting, and investigation of these incidents by police and community members and not necessarily higher rates of occurrence. Moreover, smaller jurisdictions are more sensitive to changes in rates, where fewer incidents in small populations will have a greater impact on the rate.
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Canada’s diverse population living in 3 largest CMAs
According to the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS), 19% of the Canadian population was a member of a visible minority, compared to 16% in the 2006 Census and 13% in the 2001 Census.11 Canada’s visible minority population is most concentrated in the country’s three largest Census Metropolitan Areas (CMAs) – Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Of the total visible minority population in Canada, 70% lived in these three CMAs in 2011. In 2011, more than 4 in 10 people residing in Toronto and Vancouver were visible minorities (47% and 45%, respectively), whereas the proportion was smaller in Montreal at 20%.
Canada’s three largest CMAs were also home to a great majority of Canadians who were members of religious groups that were most frequently targeted in religiously motivated hate crimes. For instance, in 2011, 1% of the Canadian population identified as Jewish, yet 82% lived in either Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver. The majority of those identifying as Muslim, which made up 3% of the Canadian population, also resided within Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver (68%). Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs represented 4% of the Canadian population, and, again, the majority resided in the three largest CMAs (74%).
For the most part, the majority of Canadians who reported the above-mentioned religions, were also members of a visible minority. In 2011, 88% of Muslims and 97% of Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs residing in Canada were also members of a visible minority. The exception was for those who were Jewish, among whom 2% were members of a visible minority.
In 2011, same-sex couple families (both married and common-law) accounted for 1% of all couples in Canada. Almost half (46%) of these couples resided in Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver in 2011.
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Hate content on the Internet
Although the Internet provides access to a wealth of valuable information, it also gives individual promoters of hate and hate groups or organizations the ability to reach millions of people through a medium that is both inexpensive and largely unregulated (Banks 2010). The Internet allows perpetrators to easily share their information and materials with a large audience, and connects individuals and groups that are geographically dispersed (Banks 2010).
According to the 2009 General Social Survey on Victimization, 16% of respondents reported ever having come across content on the Internet that promoted hatred or violence toward an identifiable group. Similar to perceived incidents of hate crime in general, hate content on the Internet was most frequently reported as targeting ethnic or religious groups (57%). Other groups reported as targets of hate content on the Internet included homosexuals (21%), women (16%), Aboriginal people (15%) and immigrants (14%) (Perreault 2011).12
Information on police-reported incidents from UCR2 includes whether or not a police-reported incident involved a computer or the Internet. Of all hate crimes recorded by police services in 2011, 1% (15 incidents) involved the use of a computer or the Internet. There are likely to be a number of issues associated with reporting hate crime incidents that involve a computer or the Internet, such as: who to report, how to report, and where one should report the incident (e.g., local police service or the creator of the website). Furthermore, an individual may be unsure whether the content is criminal in nature and may therefore be less inclined to report it to police.
On the whole, addressing hate that is expressed through the Internet is complex, especially when considering the anonymity the Internet provides. Perpetrators can hide behind anonymous screen names, while creators of hate promoting websites can simply shut them down and start a new one under a different address (Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund 2009; Henry 2009).
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Males, young adults commonly victims of police-reported hate crime
The majority of victims of police-reported violent hate crimes were male (75%).13 Incidents motivated by sexual orientation had the highest proportion of male victims at 85% (Table 6).
Overall, 41% of hate crime victims in 2011 were under the age of 25 (Chart 7). Victims of sexual-orientation-motivated hate crime tended to be younger, with 50% under age 25. Victims of religious hate crime tended to be older.
The majority of hate crime victims sustained no physical injuries (61%).14 Just over one-third (37%) had minor physical injuries, and two percent sustained major injuries. Victims of sexual-orientation-related hate crimes, which were the most likely to involve assault, were the most likely to report any physical injuries at 49%.
Most victims of violent hate crimes did not know the accused. For 61% of hate crime victims, the accused was a stranger. This differs from crimes in general, as well as for the specific offences most common among hate crimes.15 For example, in incidents involving common assault, 65% of hate crime victims identified the accused as a stranger, compared to 20% for all common assault victims.
Youth and young adults most commonly accused in hate crimes
Those accused of hate crimes tend to be young (Chart 8). 16,17 In 2011, 60% of persons accused of hate crimes were aged 12 to 24 (Table 7). While youth in Canada between the age of 12 and 17 represented just over 7% of the population, they represented 32% of those accused of hate crimes. Young adults between the age of 18 and 24 represented 10% of the population, but made up 28% of the accused identified in hate crime incidents.
Police-reported hate crime incidents are more likely to involve youth than crimes overall.18 Among hate-motivated mischief incidents, for example, youth between the age of 12 and 17 comprised 42% of accused compared to 21% for all mischief incidents. Among common assault offences that were hate motivated, youth represented 29% of accused, compared to 15% of accused in all crimes involving common assault.
Hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation had the highest proportion of accused under age 25 (70%). Of the three major motivations, religiously motivated hate crime had the highest proportion of accused aged 45 and over (24%).
In terms of individual offences, the highest proportions of youth and young adults (12 to 24) were among hate crime offences involving mischief (85%) and criminal harassment (67%). Youth and young adults represented 58% of accused in hate crime assaults.
The vast majority of those accused of hate crimes (88%) were male (compared to 76% for crimes in general). The percentage of male accused was highest among hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation (92%). Among 18- to 24-year-olds, 94% of those accused in hate crimes were male, compared to 77% for crimes in general.19
Relatively few hate crime cases completed in Canadian courts
In Canada there are four specific offences recognized in the Criminal Code as hate crime: advocating genocide, public incitement of hatred, willful promotion of hatred and mischief in relation to religious property. In addition, sentencing provisions allow for increased penalties when hate is determined to be an aggravating factor in any criminal offence (e.g. assault, mischief). While there are currently no data available from the Integrated Criminal Court Survey (ICCS) on the use of sentencing provisions related to hate crimes, it is possible to examine the number of court cases that involve charges related to the four specific hate crime offences outlined in the Criminal Code.
Information from the ICCS indicates that relatively few cases completed in Canadian courts in 2011/2012 involved any of the four specific hate crime offences. Specifically, there were 12 cases completed in adult criminal courts that involved a charge of wilful promotion and public incitement of hatred. In 2 of these 12 cases, hate crime charges accounted for the most serious offence, however, neither of these charges resulted in the accused person being found guilty.
In addition, youth courts completed 8 cases involving at least one hate crime charge in 2011/2012. Of the 8 cases completed, all involved a charge of wilful promotion of hatred, as well as an additional charge of mischief to religious property in one case. The hate crime charge was determined to be the most serious offence in one of the eight cases and resulted in a guilty decision.
Canadian police services reported 1,332 hate crimes in 2011, a 5% decline from the previous year. This represents a rate of 3.9 hate crimes per 100,000 population. Most police-reported hate crime involved non-violent offences, particularly mischief, which accounted for half of all hate crime incidents in 2011. Consistent with previous years, three motivations accounted for most hate crime: race or ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation. Youth and young adults comprised the majority of those accused of hate crimes and were also overrepresented among hate crime victims.
This report uses data from the Incident-based Uniform Crime Reporting Survey (UCR2). The UCR2 Survey is a microdata survey that captures detailed information on crimes reported to and substantiated by police, including the characteristics of victims, accused persons and incidents. In response to changing information needs, the survey was modified in 2005 (UCR2.2) to enable the identification of incidents motivated by hate based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation or any other similar factor (such as occupation or political beliefs).
In 2011, police services reporting to the UCR2.2 Survey covered 86% of the population of Canada, up from 78% in 2010.
A supplemental survey has been conducted each year since 2006 as a means of obtaining information on hate-motivated crimes from those police services reporting microdata but who had not yet converted their electronic reporting systems to the newest UCR2.2 version. These respondents were asked to identify those criminal incidents that had been motivated by hate and to manually provide the detailed motivation of each incident to Statistics Canada. Additional information (e.g. type of crime, weapon use, level of injury and relationship) was not provided by these respondents. In 2011, the police services providing information to the supplemental survey were Toronto, Calgary, Quebec, and Saint John.
Combined, coverage from the UCR2.2 Survey and the supplemental survey in 2011 is estimated at 99% of the population of Canada.
The UCR2 survey collects information on victims when they are identified in an incident. In 2011, information on 510 victims of violent offences was reported in 409 hate crime incidents. In 19% of violent hate crime incidents involving victims, more than one victim was identified. Information on victims reflects data reported by police services covering 86% of the population of Canada. It is not provided by police services reporting to the UCR2.2 Supplemental Survey.
The UCR2 survey also collects information about persons accused of hate crime. In 2011, there was information on 451 accused individuals aged 12 years and over associated with 346 incidents. In 19% of these incidents, more than one accused was identified. Information on accused reflects data reported by police services covering 86% of the population of Canada. It is not provided by police services reporting to the UCR2.2 Supplemental Survey.
The collection of police-reported hate crime data as well as the production of this analytical report was supported by funding from Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
Detailed data tables
Banks, James. 2010. “Regulating hate speech online.” International Review of Law, Computers & Technology. Vol. 24, no. 3. p. 233-239.
Chongatera, Godfred. 2013. “Hate-crime victimization and fear of hate crime among racially visible people in Canada: the role of income as a mediating factor.” Journal of Immigrant & Refugee Studies. 11. p. 44-64.
Hamilton Police Service. 2012. “Hamilton Police Service 2011 Hate/Bias Crime Statistical Report.” Hamilton. (accessed January 9, 2013).
Henry, Jessica S. 2009. “Beyond free speech: novel approaches to hate on the Internet in the United States.” Information & Communication Technology Law. 18, no. 2. p. 235
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund. 2009. Confronting the new faces of hate: hate crimes in America. (accessed November 15, 2012).
Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). 2012. Hate Crimes in the OSCE Region—Incidents and Responses: Annual report for 2011. (accessed January 9, 2013)
Perreault, Samuel. 2011. “Self-reported Internet victimization in Canada, 2009.” Juristat. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-002-X. (accessed January 9, 2013).
Statistics Canada. 2012. Portrait of families and living arrangements in Canada. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 98-312-X2011001. Ottawa, Ontario. Analysis Series, 2011 Census of Population. (accessed February 15, 2013).
Statistics Canada. 2013. Immigration and Ethnocultural Diversity in Canada. National Household Survey, 2011. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 99-010-X2011001. (accessed May 8, 2013).
- Comparability between counts from the 2006 Census long form and the 2011 National Household Survey estimates: When comparing estimates from the 2006 Census long form and estimates from the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS) users should take into account the fact that the two sources represent different populations. The target population for the 2006 Census long form includes usual residents in collective dwellings and persons living abroad whereas the target population for the NHS excludes them. Moreover, the NHS estimates are derived from a voluntary survey and are therefore subject to potentially higher non-response error than those derived from the 2006 Census long form.
- The General Social Survey on Victimization occurs every five years. For more information on GSS methodology, see Perreault and Brennan 2010.
- Victims were asked to indicate all motivations that applied to each incident. In 2009, more than one motivation was indicated in more than half (53%) of hate crimes. As such, percentages will not total 100%.
- For 16 hate crime incidents the motivation was unknown or unidentified. These are not included in the calculation of percentages.
- Violent offences are crimes against persons and include homicide, assaults, abductions, and threats of violence. Non-violent offences are crimes against property or other criminal violations, and include theft, fraud, mischief, public incitement of hatred and advocating genocide.
- Common assault (level 1) is the least serious form and involves pushing, slapping, punching or face-to-face threats.
- Data on public incitement of hatred offences may also include incidents involving wilful promotion of hatred. There were no incidents of advocating genocide in 2011.
- A census metropolitan area (CMA) consists of one or more neighbouring municipalities situated around a major urban core. A CMA must have a total population of at least 100,000 of which 50,000 or more live in the urban core. To be included in the CMA, other adjacent municipalities must have a high degree of integration with the central urban core, as measured by commuting flows derived from census data. A CMA typically comprises more than one police service.CMA populations have been adjusted to follow policing boundaries. The Oshawa CMA is excluded from this table due to the incongruity between the police service jurisdictional boundaries and the CMA boundaries. In 2010, coverage for each CMA was virtually 100%, with the exception of Saskatoon (99%), Brantford (95%), Windsor (92%), Toronto (91%), Hamilton (73%), and Barrie (70%).
- The ten largest CMAs in 2011 were (in order of size) Toronto, Montréal, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa–Gatineau (Ontario part), Winnipeg, Québec, Hamilton, and Kitchener–Cambridge–Waterloo. Population information on CMAs has been adjusted to reflect policing boundaries.
- It is important to note that the substantial increase in hate crimes in Hamilton has an impact on overall trends at both the Ontario and Canada levels. Hamilton police have attributed the increase in 2011 to improvements in reporting (Hamilton Police Service 2012).
- See Note 1.
- Internet users had the option of identifying more than one target group. As such, percentages will not total 100%.
- This section looks at the characteristics of victims, not at the characteristics of incidents with victims. Information on victims is limited to violent offences. Information on victims reflects data reported by police services covering 86% of the population of Canada. It does not include police services reporting to the UCR2.2 Supplemental Survey. Comparisons to crimes in general are based on data using the same coverage.
- Includes incidents which did not involve the use of a weapon or physical force.
- It is important to control for the type of offence when comparing hate crimes from crimes in general, as hate crimes tend to involve different types of offence, particularly assault and mischief. Crimes in general include a wider variety of offences, such as theft, which is very common among crimes in general, but which is rare among hate crimes.
- This section looks at the characteristics of accused individuals, not of the incidents with an accused. Information on accused reflects data reported by police services covering 86% of the population of Canada. It does not include police services reporting to the UCR2.2 Supplemental Survey.
- By comparison, youth and young adults comprised 40% of the accused in crimes in general. Persons under the age of 12 are excluded from the analysis of accused as they cannot be charged with an offence under the Criminal Code.
- See Note 15.
- Proportions for crimes in general exclude incidents where the accused is a registered company.