TORONTO (JTA) — Hate crimes in Canada jumped by 35 percent in one year, with Jews and blacks the leading targets.
Figures released by Statistics Canada showed there were 1,036 hate crimes reported in the country in 2008, with 55 percent motivated by race, 26 percent by religion and 16 percent by sexual orientation.
Crimes motivated by race or ethnicity were up 15 percent in 2008 over 2007, with blacks targeted in four out of 10 incidents.
Gleaned from police data across the country, the numbers show that hate crimes motivated by religion increased 53 percent.
As in previous years, about two-thirds of religiously motivated hate crimes were committed against Jews. There were 165 hate crimes targeting Jews in 2008, an increase of 42 percent over the year before.
Twenty-six incidents were reported against Muslims, representing a slight drop from 2007.
While all the major categories of hate crime increased in 2008, the largest rise was in crimes motivated by sexual orientation, which more than doubled from 2007 to 2008.
The numbers also showed that six out of 10 people accused of such crime are aged 12 to 22.
Bernie Farber, CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress, said that while the numbers are "disturbing," hate crimes against Jews are tied to events in the Middle East.
"When there is a situation that has developed in the Middle East … it is a truism to say hate crimes against Jews rise," Farber told the National Post newspaper. "In the timeline that you’ve seen this increase, we’ve had the Lebanese incursion and the Gaza war. It’s a tense time when these things happen, and people’s most base and hateful qualities come out."
But Farber also sees a silver lining.
"While there’s been a spike, the number of crimes is still not huge," he said. "It’s still correct to say that Canada is one of the safest places for Jews to live anywhere in the world."