Ottawa had one of the highest rates of hate crime among Canadian cities last year, according to numbers released Monday by Statistics Canada.
There were 105 hate crimes reported to police in 2018 in the capital, or 9.8 incidents per 100,000 people.
That placed Ottawa third behind only Hamilton, where there were 17.1 hate crimes per 100,000 last year, and Quebec City, where there were 11 per 100,000.
César Ndéma-Moussa, president of Roots and Culture, an Ottawa organization that advocates for members of black and racialized communities, as well as other vulnerable groups, found those numbers “disturbing, yet unsurprising.”
“Of course, this contradicts the vision that we have of peaceful Ottawa,” Ndéma-Moussa said.
“When we look … at a global context in terms of rise of white supremacy and white nationalism, we cannot be surprised,” he said.
Those incidents have spilled over into 2019: There were four incidents in recent months of graffiti targeting Ottawa’s black community, including one family who found their garage door spray-painted with the N-word in May.
In recent years, vandals have also targeted Jewish and Muslim communities in Ottawa, and the city has been the site of anti-immigration rallies.
“This is the reality of Ottawa today,” Ndéma-Moussa said.
Tip of the iceberg
But according to Amira Elghawaby, a board member with the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, the numbers from Statistics Canada don’t tell the whole picture.
“This is really the tip of the iceberg,” Elghawaby said. “Many people, for whatever reasons, are reluctant to report, don’t feel comfortable; or they are reporting, but the police are not deeming [their complaints] to be founded. And so they’re not really showing up in any data.”
Elghawaby believes Ottawa’s ranking at the top of the Statistics Canada hate crime list can be explained in part by the fact it’s one of the only places in the country where people can report hate crimes online.
“We’ve actually worked with police to remove barriers to reporting in the city,” she said.
While Elghawaby calls the initiative forward-thinking, she said still much more needs to be done, including better training for officers to deal with hate incidents, and annual police reports on these types of crimes, like other cities have done.
“What we can simply deduce from these numbers is we need to address hate in our communities,” she said. “We need to make sure that if there are people who are victimized, that they feel comfortable coming forward.”
According to Statistics Canada, most of the police-reported hate crimes in 2018 fell under assault, uttering threats or mischief.
Race and religion were found to be the main factors motivating the attacks.