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Tougher legislation needed on hate crimes

May 21, 2010

from Kristopher Wells and Murray Billett's article in the Edmonton Journal:

....Here in Canada, the gravity of hate crimes was officially recognized in 1970, when the government amended the Criminal Code to include hate propaganda as a punishable offence.
In 1996, the government also introduced enhanced sentencing provisions for offences motivated by hate, and in 2001 included mischief to religious property as a specific hate-motivated offence.

Despite this evolution, we argue that these legislative responses to hate have not gone far enough. The problem most concerning to many diverse communities and law enforcement officials involves the fact that there are still no direct provisions in the Criminal Code to identify hate crime as a violent offence (such as assault) or as a crime against a person or individual property (such as vandalism).

....In Canada, the Supreme Court has ruled that individuals have the right to hold discriminatory beliefs; however, they do not have the right to act upon them in public space. This is the difference between belief (freedom of conscience and speech) and conduct (freedom to act in discriminatory ways).

....Hate is a learned behaviour, which divides families and communities. Rather than let hate divide us, we call for communities to stand united against hate and announce that it is not a value that will be tolerated in the province of Alberta. After all, hate imprisons everyone: the victim, perpetrator, and community.

To help achieve this vision of a hate-free Alberta, we call on the province to develop a strategy against hate. It should include:

  • Directed advocacy to include specific provisions within the Criminal Code of Canada for hate crime offences;
  • Development of a standardized definition and response to hate crime;
  • Mandatory reporting of hate crime statistics by all law enforcement agencies;
  • Support for restorative justice and innovative educational programs (punish the problem, not the people);
  • Creation of a provincial hate crimes office to help with investigation, training, public education, and support for victimized communities.

Read the whole article.

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