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Hate-crime reports and antisemitic incidents in Toronto rise, police chief says

Toronto Police Chief Myron Demkiw attends a press conference in Toronto on Monday, May 1, 2023. Demkiw says officers are responding to a significantly higher number of hate crime calls since the start of the Israel-Hamas war in 2023 and over half of the reports this year allege antisemitism. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

TORONTO — The number of calls reporting hate crimes in Toronto has surged since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, the city's police chief told a board meeting on Monday, adding that more than half of hate crimes this year have targeted the Jewish community. 

Chief Myron Demkiw said officers have responded to 989 hate-crime calls since Oct. 7, 2023, which is a 93-per-cent increase compared to the same period last year. 

"We have confirmed 203 hate crimes. We are attending an average of 157 hate-crime calls for service a month," he said at a meeting of the Toronto police services board.

Demkiw said that of the 84 hate crimes confirmed since January this year, 56 per cent have been antisemitic in nature.

"Last month was the highest number of antisemitic occurrences per month in the last three years," he added.

Police data says members of the LGBTQ+ community and Black Torontonians are the next groups most commonly targeted by hate crimes. 

Hate crimes against Muslims and Arabs living in Toronto have also increased, Demkiw said, but he voiced concern that incidents targeting those communities are significantly under-reported.

"I know from talking to people in the community that Islamophobia is a significant concern," he said.

Demkiw encouraged Muslim community members to report crimes to police, adding that officers have increased their presence at mosques during Ramadan to ensure the holy month for Muslims that's currently underway is as peaceful as possible.

"We have added a second Muslim liaison officer," he said.

"We are looking at new ways to improve access to reporting incidents of hate and continue to evolve our community engagement efforts."

Last week, Statistics Canada said police-reported hate crimes across the country increased for a fourth year in a row in 2022.

"The number of hate crimes reported by police in Canada rose from 3,355 incidents in 2021 to 3,576 in 2022, a seven per cent increase," it said in a report.

"Higher numbers of hate crimes targeting a race or an ethnicity and a sexual orientation accounted for most of the increase in 2022."

The government agency said violent hate crimes increased by 12 per cent in 2022 while non-violent hate crimes increased by three per cent.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 18, 2024.

Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press

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