Hate Crimes “Sharply Increased” during the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada

Article by Arunita Das

In 2021, Statistics Canada latest report titled “Police-reported crime statistics in Canada, 2020” found that Canada has witnessed an insurgence of race-based hate crimes in 2020. Indeed, police-reported crime decreased by 8 per cent across Canada overall. However, the amount of hate crimes (reported to police) increased in Canada by 37 per cent in 2020. This data was gathered using the crime-severity index (CSI) in 2020.

A hate crime is a mechanism of power resulting in a criminal offence motivated or suspected of being motivated by hate based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or any other similar factors (Media Smarts, 2020). This report used this definition to gather data on hate crimes in Canada.

This study suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affect the dramatic increase in hate-motivated violence, especially anti-Asian racism in Canada. In the first year of the pandemic, there were 2669 incidents of hate crime, which is 718 more incidents than in 2019 (Moreau, 2021, p. 3). A large amount of hate-motivated violence that was reported targeted race or ethnicity in Canada, which sharply increased during the first year of the pandemic. Moreover, incidents of hate crime were “most pronounced among Chinese (30%), Korean (27%), and Southeast Asian (19%) participants” (Moreau, 2021, p. 12). These increases confirm that anti-Asian hate and racism became more prominent during the pandemic in Canada.

While this was an interesting study, there are some issues with the data collected. This study explains that data was collected on both “non-violent and violent” hate crimes in 2020. However, it does not go as far to specify what types of “non-violent” or “violent” hate people experienced. It is important to distinguish what falls under the categories of non-violent and violent hate crimes to learn what constitutes hateful expression, and how the law understands hateful expression, whether that is physical assault, verbal harassment, sexual violence, threats, hateful symbols, propaganda, or other forms. Reporting the types of hate people experienced helps towards identifying the varying degrees of hate.

Learning what hate crimes are classified as violent and non-violent can also lead to better laws that appropriately address the crime and protect the communities that are targeted. Currently, the laws surrounding hate crimes make it difficult to prosecute hate-motivated violence in Canada. Unless there are extreme expressions of hatred and contempt, hate speech and hateful expression is protected under section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Under sections 318 and 319 of the Criminal Code of Canada, there are four specific offences that constitute hate propaganda or hate-motivated violence: “advocating genocide, public incitement of hatred, willful promotion of hatred and mischief motivated by hate in relation to property used by an identifiable group” (Moreau, 2021, p. 12). This means that unless there is direct evidence of targeted, hate-motivated violence on an individual, the crime would not be classified as a hate crime. Thus, there are limited legal protections that address hate crimes in Canada.

It is important to note that this study collected data using information reported to municipal police services across Canada. However, not everyone who has been a victim of hate crime in Canada has reported their stories (Vanderlinde, 2021). Thus, the number of hate incidents in Canada may be much larger.

This report by Statistics Canada makes visible a legacy of racism and discrimination that prevails in Canada, which paints a different picture than Canada’s purported image as a multicultural, tolerant, and diverse nation. Further research must focus on how hate crimes are regulated by Canada’s laws and law enforcement by identifying what constitutes a hate crime, what are different forms of hate crime, and what were the outcomes of reporting hate crime to municipal police services.




Media Smarts (2020). Online Hate and Canadian Law. Retrieved from Media Smarts: Canadian Centre for Digital Media and Literacy: https://mediasmarts.ca/digital-media-literacy/digital-issues/online-hate/online-hate-canadian-law

Moreau, G. (2021). Police-reported crime statistics in Canada, 2020. (Report No. 85-002-X, ISSN 1209-6393). Statistics Canada. Retrieved from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/en/pub/85-002-x/2021001/article/00013-eng.pdf?st=wnaqK9Mw

Vanderlinde, R. (2021, January 18). Hate crime statistics don't paint true picture of problem, professor says. Toronto.com. https://www.toronto.com/news-story/10278788-hate-crime-statistics-don-t-paint-true-picture-of-problem-professor-says/


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