Reports of hate crimes are on the rise in the Ottawa region

OTTAWA — Hate crime charges against two Ottawa high school students are part of a growing trend of racism and anti-Semitism, newly released data suggests.

Andrea Freedman, president of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa, sees the alleged use of Nazi symbols by students at Sir Robert Borden Secondary School last month as an example of this problem.

Ms Freedman has been in regular contact with police since the investigation into the December 1 incident began.

She has sounded the alarm in recent weeks over a resurgence of anti-Semitism in schools.

Ottawa police say they received 377 reports of suspected hate crimes in 2022, up 13% from the previous year.

Ms. Freedman believes this is probably a small fraction of what actually happens.

“People are reaching their limits of how much hate they’re willing to tolerate,” she said. But a lot of people don’t report after the first incident: it takes several times.”

Fatema Abdalla, a spokesperson for the National Council of Canadian Muslims, has also heard that there is an increase in Islamophobia in the community. And she, too, points out that many people are reluctant to report these incidents to the police.

Part of the reason people are hesitant, she says, is a lack of understanding on the part of authorities: what a person of color considers a hate crime may not result in charges from the police. police.

“It’s more about making sure that when incidents are reported as hate incidents, they are considered from all angles, so that the hate character is not overshadowed,” Ms Abdalla said.

The 377 reports last year led to 174 criminal charges against 51 people. Only five of those reports led to formal charges of hate crimes.

Train the police

Sergeant Ali Toghrol is the head of the hate crimes unit at the Ottawa Police Service, which has been collecting this data since its inception in 2020.

Toghrol said his unit works to educate other Ottawa police officers to identify hateful incidents when they are reported by citizens. The unit also aims to build relationships within the community to rebuild trust, as many people targeted by hate crimes “don’t have a very high regard for the police”, admits the sergeant.

Ottawa Police are working on creating a “third-party reporting” system, so that a social worker or community activist can report on behalf of another person.

But activists argue that this measure will not solve the underlying problem. Robin Browne is a coordinator with the volunteer organization “613-819 Black Hub”, which fights racism against blacks in Ottawa and Gatineau. He believes the increase in reports of hate crimes reflects the fact that people from other communities, including the Jewish community, are making reports.

“The focus on hate is a bit problematic because it doesn’t include systemic racism against black people, including that of the police,” Browne said.

According to him, the Ottawa police must be inspired by the community if we want to reinvent well-being and security.

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This dispatch was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta Exchanges and The Canadian Press for the news.

Reports of hate crimes are on the rise in the Ottawa region