Israel-Hamas war fueled increase in hate crimes, protests
VANCOUVER, BC: Tensions from the Israel-Hamas war have fueled increases in protest activity and hate crimes in Vancouver, resulting in rising anti-Semitism and more than $2.5 million in overtime costs to the Vancouver Police Department since October 7 alone.
Typically during pre-pandemic time we would have around 600 protests a year. Last year 2023 was a record-breaking year in Vancouver. There were 1,018 protests in Vancouver in 2023, resulting in a 27 percent increase in officers being deployed and more than $4 million in overtime costs,” said Staff Sergeant Astrid Bonter, with VPD’s Diversity, Community, and Indigenous Relations Section.
Eighty of the 1,018 protests in Vancouver last year occurred after October 7 and have been linked to the Israel-Hamas conflict. These 80 protests alone have resulted in 1,800 overtime shifts at a cost of $2.5 million.
“Sunday marked 100 days since the Hamas attack on Israel, a moment in history that will not be forgotten by the many communities directly and indirectly impacted by the violence of that day,” he added. “While I cannot begin to speak on behalf of the communities embroiled in this conflict, I can say without question that your suffering is seen and heard.”
In total, Vancouver Police investigated 265 hate crime reports across all communities in 2023, a 31 per cent increase from the previous year. Increased reporting from the 2SLGBTQ+, South Asian, and Jewish communities – fueled largely by geo-political tensions – were all major factors.
Those same factors led to an unprecedented number of protests in Vancouver last year.
“Protests often draw large groups of people with opposing views and create significant volatility due to the emotions involved,” said Inspector Jeff Neuman, with VPD’s Emergency Operations and Planning Section, which oversaw security planning and police deployment for 2,700 special events, including protests, last year in Vancouver. “We support everyone’s right to peacefully assemble and express their views under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We encourage everyone who protests to do so peacefully, respectfully, and in accordance with the law. But, anyone who breaks the law or puts others’ safety at risk may face arrest and criminal charges.”
Though several factors contributed to the overall rise in hate incidents and protest activity in 2023, the attacks on Israel and the ensuing war in Gaza were the single biggest reason for the increases.
VPD immediately took action following the October 7 attacks on Israel by Hamas, and has continued to work closely with community and faith leaders to ease tensions and address safety concerns during the ongoing war.
Within hours of the attacks, VPD activated its Departmental Operations Centre to serve as a 24-7 command and control centre. Commanders in the DOC have coordinated staffing for protests, and experienced major crime investigators have overseen the investigations into all reported incidents related to the conflict.
Beginning October 7, dedicated officers were assigned to maintain visible police presence and conduct proactive patrols at high-risk locations, including places of worship, community centres, and faith-based schools. School-liaison officers have also worked with public and private schools serving impacted communities, and VPD continues to share information with local and international public-safety partners.
Anyone who experiences a hate-crime, and anyone who has concerns for their safety or the safety of others, is encouraged to contact police. Emergencies should be reported to 9-1-1. Additional information on how to report a hate crime, as well as how to access victim services, is available at VPD.ca, which can be auto-translated into more than 100 languages.