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Hate crimes against Muslims in Canada jump 71 percent

Recorded attacks against Muslims rose from 84 incidents in 2020 to 144 incidents in 2021, according to newly released data from Statistics Canada
A young woman puts a flower on the fence of the London Muslim Mosque during a march, after a man driving a pickup truck struck and killed four members of a Muslim family in London, Ontario, Canada on 11 June 2021.
A young woman puts a flower on the fence of the London Muslim Mosque during a march, after a man driving a pickup truck struck and killed four members of a Muslim family in London, Ontario, Canada on 11 June 2021 (AFP)

Hate crimes against Muslim communities across Canada increased by 71 percent in 2021, according to a newly released report by the government agency Statistics Canada.

The study, released on Tuesday, found that the number of recorded attacks against Muslims rose from 84 incidents in 2020 to 144 in 2021. The jump in attacks had followed a decline from the previous year, when in 2019 there were a total of 182 reported incidents targeting Muslims.

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"We lost Canadian Muslims to hate in 2021. These numbers also do not tell the whole story - we know that the numbers of hate crimes vastly exceed what show up in hate crime stats," the National Council for Canadian Muslims (NCCM) said on Twitter in response to the report's release.

The rise in attacks in 2021 corresponds with the killing of four members of the Afzaal family in London, Ontario.

The attacker, 20-year-old Nathaniel Veltman, deliberately slammed his pick-up truck into Salman Afzaal, 46, his 77-year old mother, his wife Madiha, 44, and their 15-year-old daughter Yumna, as they were waiting to cross the road. Only nine-year-old Faez survived the attack.

Police said the attack was "premeditated" and "motivated by hate", while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called it a "terrorist attack".

"The increase also occurred in the same year as an attack in London, Ontario, which targeted a Muslim family and resulted in four homicides and one attempted homicide," the Statistics Canada report said.

"While it is not possible to link police-reported hate crime incidents to particular events, media coverage and public discourse can increase awareness as well as draw negative reactions from people who share hateful attitudes."

'Islamophobia is lethal'

Experts in Canada had previously told MEE that, while the country is seen by the outside world as a haven for multiculturalism, Canada has witnessed decades of anti-Muslim rhetoric both from politicians and the media.

Data from Statistics Canada shows hate crimes against Muslims have risen over the past decade.

Last year, NCCM released a report that listed 61 recommendations that included the development of a federal anti-Islamophobia strategy to include a clear definition of Islamophobia as well as funding to help support victims of hate-motivated crimes.

The group also called for Canadian provinces to ensure their anti-racism directorates were well resourced and for municipalities to fund community-based efforts to tackle Islamophobia.

"While we have heard many words from politicians condemning Islamophobia and standing in solidarity with Muslims in Canada, action to tackle Islamophobia has been slow and piecemeal," the group said.

"We cannot stand by and see any more lives lost. Islamophobia is lethal and we need to see action now."

In response to these calls, the Canadian government opened up applications for an envoy for combating Islamophobia, a role that would reach out to communities and advise the prime minister and the government on the best ways to fight hate against Muslims in Canada.

The report from Statistics Canada also showed that attacks on Muslims are not the only types of crimes on the rise. Attacks targeting Jews rose by 47 percent, and attacks against Catholics increased by 260 percent.

In total, the number of hate crimes increased from 2,646 in 2020 to 3,360 in 2021, a rise of 27 percent.