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Hate crimes targeting Muslims in Canada down 50 percent in 2018, new data shows

But experts say data doesn't paint a full picture, with about two-thirds of hate crimes never reported to police
Over 600 hate crimes motivated by religion were reported to police in 2018 (AFP/File photo)

Hate crimes against Muslims in Canada were down 50 percent in 2018 compared to the year before, a new report by Statistics Canada has said. 

But a national advocacy group has warned about an uptick in hate incidents targeting religious institutions.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) said on Monday that it welcomed the findings, which showed hate crimes targeting Muslims that were reported to police across Canada dropped by half from 2017 to 2018.

But hate incidents targeting houses of worship - dubbed "mischief to religious property motivated by hate" - went up 41 percent over the same period, the NCCM said, citing data from Statistics Canada.

"This largely tracks with reports that we have been receiving across Canada from Canadian Muslims who are concerned about the safety and integrity of their religious institutions," said Mustafa Farooq, NCCM's executive director, in a statement.

Farooq said this was particularly alarming for Muslim-Canadians who are still grappling with the aftermath of a deadly shooting a Quebec City mosque in 2017, among other attacks on Muslim places of worship in North America.

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Six Muslim men were killed and several others injured when a gunman opened fire on the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre in January of that year.

Statistics Canada, the federal statistics collection agency, said 639 hate crimes motivated by religion were reported to police in 2018 across Canada, down from 842 a year earlier.

But the 2018 figure is still higher than what was recorded in 2014, 2015 and 2016, respectively.

Statistics Canada also said that 103 incidents of mischief to religious property motivated by hate were reported to police in 2018, up from 74 in 2017 and 63 in 2016.

'Data hints at trends'

However, experts who track hate crimes in Canada say the data does not paint a full picture.

In fact, as many as two-thirds of hate crimes go unreported to police, Statistics Canada found in a past report.

"This is not a measurement of the state of hate in Canada. It isn't even an accurate measurement of the number of hate crimes. At best this data hints at trends," the Canadian Anti-Hate Network said on its website this month, just before the 2018 data was released.

"That being said, it's the only data we get annually, and suggests the state of hate is getting worse; we should believe communities targeted by hate when they say it's getting worse."

Muslims in Quebec, a province in eastern Canada, also have reported an uptick in harassment and hate incidents since the introduction of a law that restricts religious symbols in the public sector.

Known as Bill 21, the legislation - passed last month by the provincial government - prohibits some public-sector workers from wearing religious garb on the job.

That includes hijab worn by some Muslim women, kippahs worn by Jewish men, and turbans worn by Sikh men and women, among others.

The law has been criticised by civil liberty groups, school boards, and members of religious minority groups, among others across Canada, who say it unjustly infringes on freedom of religion.