Muslims were the main target of hate crimes committed in Montreal thus far in 2019, according to data released by the city’s police department.

In the first four months of the year, the SPVM said 61 crimes were motivated or suspected to be motivated by hate. Of those, 15 were directed towards Muslims and seven towards Jews. Another 35 non-criminal incidents occurred, with more than a third of those aimed at Muslims. 

“It’s open season on Muslims,” said Canadian Council of Muslim Women spokesperson Shaheen Ashraf. “You can say whatever you want to me and it’ll be okay.”

B’Nai Brith spokesperson Harvey Levine said he was “horrified” by the numbers.

“We’re horrified there continues to be hate crimes against all of the minority communities,” he said.

Ashraf said she believes Bill 21, the recently passed provincial law that bans public employees in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols, is encouraging hate in Quebec. She said she’s even felt the hostility in her West Island neighbourhood.

“This little kid in my neighbourhood, I was walking one evening and he’s on his bike and he spat in my face,” she said.

A spokesperson from the Quebec Immigration Ministry said the government strongly denounces every intolerant act or incident of hate speech and denied a link between the debate on secularism and hate crimes.

“The Legault government has to realize that this won’t stop because they pushed through the bill and now that they’re going into a summer session everything will be over come September,” said Levine. “It will not stop.”

Levine said there are likely many hate incidents that go unreported.

“In 2018 we had our highest number of recorded anti-Semitic incidents reported to us in the past 35 years of doing our audit and it continues to grow,” he said.