Hate crimes targeting Muslims have increased by over 200 percent in Canada’s most populous province of Ontario in the past year, according to the country’s national statistics agency Statistics Canada.
The data, which has raised concern among Muslim and other advocacy groups, was released on Thursday by Statistics Canada.
Quebec also saw a similar surge, with nearly three times more anti-Muslim hate crimes reported in 2017 compared to the previous year.
The report counted 2,073 overall police-reported hate-crimes in 2017 across the country, an all time high surpassing the previous year by 664 more incidents.
The data revealed that Muslims had been targeted in 349 incidents and had experienced the highest increase of hate-related crimes compared to any other minority.
Crimes specifically targeting Muslims increased nationally by 151 percent, while Jewish and black minorities respectively witnessed a 60 and 50 percent increase in hate crimes.
“The data, while very unsettling for our communities, unfortunately does not surprise us; 2017 was an immensely difficult year for the Canadian Muslim community,” said executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) Ihsaan Gardee.
Last year began with a tragic January shooting targeting a Mosque in Quebec City, Quebec, killing six worshipers and wounding many more.
“This new data reveals Islamophobic hate crimes peaked in February 2017, signaling that the shooting very much set the tone for the increase in hate crimes against Muslims for the remainder of the year,” said Gardee.
The Muslim director further explained that “approximately two-thirds of hate crimes are never even reported to police for a variety of reasons including fear of retaliation, shame, and fear of not being believed by police.”
The worrying reports come amid increased domestic debate about Canada’s relatively open immigration policies.
Political debate related to minority communities, specifically Muslims, has also consequently surged in the country.
In an important development last week, more than a hundred community groups called on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to launch an initiative for uniting the country against hate crime.
Quebec’s newly elected Premier Francois Legault seeks to impose a controversial ban preventing public servants who are “in position of authority” from wearing religious symbols such as the hijab.
The controversial law, which was denounced by numerous rights organizations, has sparked public protests in the past two months.
A study published by Canada’s state-owned Radio Canada earlier this week, however, claimed that over two-thirds of Quebecers currently support the purposed ban.