Hamilton has the second-highest rate of police-reported hate crimes, only falling behind Thunder Bay, according to a national Statistics Canada Report.
This ranking, based on 2015 statistics, is not new. Hamilton regularly ranks in that second place spot, in part because of increased reporting here, police say.
Hamilton saw 55 hate incidents reported in 2015, at a rate of 9.9 per 100,000 population. That was down from 82 incidents and a rate of 14.9 in 2014.
Statistics Canada tracks hate crimes differently than internal police statistics, including classifying hate crimes as all police-reported incidents found to have been motivated by hate toward a particular identifiable group.
When Hamilton police present their hate crime statistics to the police board each year, they break them down between actual crimes motivated by hate and non-criminal incidents with hate overtones.
In March, Hamilton police presented their 2016 hate crime numbers, which showed incidents remain relatively static.
There were 115 incidents with some sort of hate undertone or bias reported to Hamilton police in 2016, including 15 hate crimes.
Police reported 114 incidents in 2015, including 15 hate crimes.
Both nationally and in Hamilton, the black community remains the most targeted ethnic group and the Jewish community the most targeted religious group.
However, the Statistics Canada report notes a growth in incidents targeting the Muslim community that contributed to a five per cent overall jump in police-reported hate incidents in 2015.
Milé Komlen, board chair for Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion, said this is reflective of what the community organization is hearing. “We’re certainly seeing an increase in hate crimes or discriminatory incidents … primarily toward religious groups.”
He also noted Hamilton has a long history of supporting those affected, providing education and awareness, and building bridges between communities. He pointed to the upcoming opening of the Anti-Racism Resource Centre, which will be housed in the HCCI offices at King Street East.
It will be a place where people who experience racism, including in incidents “that may not rise to the level of criminality” can come to share their experiences.
During the March police board meeting, Chief Eric Girt said hate crimes are traditionally under-reported everywhere, acknowledging these numbers are just a “snapshot.” But he also noted greater awareness in Hamilton could drive up numbers.
In a statement Wednesday, Hamilton police community relations co-ordinator Sandra Wilson said there are no specific trends related to why people are targeted in Hamilton, but police encourage anyone affected to report.
“We are cognizant of the impact these crimes have on our society often targeting unchangeable attributes thus tearing at the fabric of our society,” she said.