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So far, 56% of reported hate crimes in 2024 have targeted Jewish people, Toronto police say

Toronto police Chief Myron Demkiw provided an update on hate crimes in the city to the police services board at a meeting Monday. (Toronto Police Service handout - image credit)
Toronto police Chief Myron Demkiw provided an update on hate crimes in the city to the police services board at a meeting Monday. (Toronto Police Service handout - image credit)

Toronto has seen a 93 per cent increase in the number of reported hate crimes since the Israel-Hamas war began compared to the same time period a year earlier, the city's police chief says.

Chief Myron Demkiw told the Toronto Police Services Board on Monday that there have been 989 calls for service related to hate crimes in the 163 days since Oct. 7, when Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel that subsequently saw Israel invade Gaza.

Over that period, Demkiw said officers have responded to an average of about 157 hate crime-related calls every month.

Police have confirmed 203 hate crimes in that timeframe, resulting in 69 arrests and 173 charges, most commonly for mischief, uttering threats and assault, he said.

"The impact of geopolitical unrest abroad continues to affect people worldwide, including in Canada and right here in Toronto," Demkiw said.

While December and January saw a relative lull in hate-related calls, incidents ballooned in February, according to Demkiw. That month saw a 67 per cent jump over January, he explained.

84 hate crimes reported so far this year

A total of 84 hate crimes have been reported in 2024 thus far, with 56 per cent of those classified as antisemitic in nature, Demkiw said. February saw the highest number of reported antisemitic hate crimes of any month in the last three years, he told the board.

In the period since Oct. 7, anti-LGBTQ hate crimes were the second-most reported type of incident, followed by anti-Black hate and then what Demkiw described as anti-Arab, Muslim and Palestinian hate.

"I also know, from talking to people in the community, that Islamophobia is a significant concern and given our statistics, I am concerned about significant under-reporting in this regard," Demkiw said.

He said the service has added a second liaison officer assigned to the city's Muslim community while it explores new ways to report alleged hate crimes to police.

According to the force's website, Toronto police consider a hate crime to be a criminal offence committed against a person or property motivated at least in part by the offender's bias, prejudice or hate against an identifiable group. If a person is charged and convicted of that offence, a judge will take into consideration hate as an aggravating factor when imposing a sentence.

Demonstrations frequent

Meanwhile, there have been 342 occurrences of "hate-related graffiti" confirmed by police since Oct. 7, according to Demkiw.

The city has also seen many demonstrations related to the ongoing war in Gaza, he noted. Police have made 24 arrests and laid some 30 charges related to the protests. Demkiw said the cost of policing the demonstrations, which appear to be growing more tense in nature, exceeds $10 million.

In addition to deploying officers to protests, the service is maintaining a permanent command post in the Bathurst Street corridor, an area home to many of Toronto's Jewish communities. Command posts are also being set up at mosques on a rotational basis throughout the holy month of Ramadan, Demkiw said.

About 1,200 people were killed in Hamas' surprise attack on Israel on Oct. 7, while roughly 240 more were taken hostage, according to Israeli figures. The Hamas-led local health authority in Gaza says more than 31,000 Palestinians have been killed since Israel began its military campaign in the wake of the attack.