This summary highlights key learnings from section 3 of the report. Download our full report (PDF, 23MB) for more information and details. You may also click on any heading below to open up that section of the PDF report.

What are the root causes of hate?

Hate is based in issues of power and control.

Hate comes from the idea that certain people can or should have power and control over others. These ideas come from our history where certain people took power over others. These ideas are then built into systems that help certain people keep their power.

Hate starts from negative assumptions, images, and beliefs about a certain group. These negative assumptions are called stereotypes. In time of crisis, stereotypes can become stronger and lead to hate towards members of a group. For example, during the pandemic, beliefs about diseases coming from Asia increased hate against Asians.

Hate has always existed in our province, but it has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A pyramid graphic with 5 tiers. From the bottom tier, the labels are "Biased attitudes"; "Acts of bias"; "Discrimination"; "Bias-motivated violence"; "Genocide".

“The hate that has always been there is no longer skulking in dark corners, as it were. Now, it’s out there. Hate and the people who spread it have kind of gone mainstream. It’s no longer considered to be taboo…”

— Respondent to the Commissioner’s public survey

Why do people commit hate incidents?

Most people feel stress, fear and anxiety in a pandemic. But many people don’t say or do hateful things. It’s important to understand why some people act hatefully so that we can work to stop this from happening.

When there is a crisis, some people feel defensive and blame other people and groups. When someone sees a group as a threat, it might lead them to act or speak hatefully to members of that group.

Some ways the pandemic led to an increase in hate:

  • Stress about money

    such as losing work or having trouble paying the bills—may increase hate. People may think another group has an unfair advantage that threatens their jobs or homes or community.

  • Isolation and loneliness

    Community and belonging are especially important during times of crisis. When people feel disconnected and alone, they are more likely to be attracted to hate-based ideas and groups where they feel they can belong.

  • Thinking hate is okay

    Before and during the pandemic, it has become more common to hear hateful things in the news or online and to hear politicians or famous people saying hateful things. This can make hate seem more normal, which makes it easier for people to say or do hateful things and makes it harder to stand up against hate.

  • Anxiety and fear

    about the pandemic have led some people to blame Asians for the virus. Having someone to blame can help people feel they can explain and control a scary situation. This happened during other pandemics in history as well.

  • Pushing back on progress on social issues

    Some people reacted with hate to social movements that happened at the same time as the pandemic, such as Black Lives Matter protests.

  • Public health measures

    such as rules about lockdowns, masks or vaccines—increased hate. Some people who felt anxious or distrustful of the decisions government made, found it easier to believe conspiracy theories and extreme views. Many people spent more time alone and online during the pandemic. More time online made it easier to hear hateful ideas and connect with people who are encouraging hate. Increased use of alcohol and drugs have contributed to the rise in hate too.

  • Misinformation, disinformation and conspiracies

    Misinformation (sharing wrong information without meaning to), disinformation (sharing wrong information on purpose) and conspiracy theories (explanations that blame government or certain groups) have all increased during the pandemic.

  • Far right and hate-based groups

    have grown during the pandemic. They share hateful ideas and disinformation online to increase feelings of distrust and hate.

  • Misogyny and hate-based movements

    Misogyny is hatred against women. Many men involved in hate-based groups speak and act in hateful ways against women.

  • Radicalization

    Hate-based groups work hard to add new members to their groups. Online they target people who are vulnerable, such as children or youth and adults who have experienced trauma as children.

Map of Canada shown. Every province is grey except for B.C., Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, which are all highlighted in blue.

About 300 far-right extremist groups have emerged in Canada since 2015, and are primarily located in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia.

Source: The Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, June 2022