OTTAWA - The number of police-reported hate crimes in Canada increased 42 per cent in 2009, says a new study released Tuesday.

Canadian police services reported 1,473 hate crimes in 2009, up by 437 incidents. That came on the heels of a 35 per cent increase in 2008.

Statistics Canada says more than half (54 per cent) of police-reported hate crimes in 2009 were motivated by race or ethnicity, 29 per cent by religion and 13 per cent by sexual orientation.

All increased, especially hate crimes motivated by religion, which rose 55 per cent, the agency says.

The number of racially motivated hate crimes was up 35 per cent, it says, while those motivated by sexual orientation went up 18 per cent.

"Violent offences, such as assault, accounted for about four in 10 hate crimes reported by police. Violent offences were particularly more common among hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation."

More than half (54 per cent) of police-reported hate crimes involved mischief offences, such as graffiti or vandalism, the study says.

"Rates of hate crime tended to be highest among youth and young adults for both victims and accused," it says.

The number of police-reported hate crimes against all racial groups rose in 2009. The largest increase involved hate crimes against Arabs or West Asians, which doubled to 75 incidents from 37.

Blacks continued to be the most commonly targeted racial group, accounting for 272 incidents in 2009, or about 38 per cent of all racially-motivated incidents.

As in previous years, Statistics Canada reported seven in 10 religiously-motivated hate crimes were committed against the Jewish faith in 2009 -- 283, up 71 per cent from 2008.

Hate crimes against the Muslim faith increased to 36 incidents from 26 in 2008. Police reported 33 hate crimes against Catholics, three more than in 2008.

Four cities accounted for most of the increase in police-reported hate crime, led by Ottawa, where the number of incidents increased by 83, Toronto (79), Kitchener--Cambridge--Waterloo (62) and Montreal (61).

The census area of Kitchener--Cambridge--Waterloo, Ont., reported the highest rate of police-reported hate crimes, at just under 18 incidents for every 100,000 population.