Hate Crimes & Individual Rights

Hate Crimes in Canada, the Law & Rights;

Hate crimes make up a minor part of Canadian criminal law, though their have been some sensational cases.  What is a hate crime; “A hate crime is one in which hate is the motive and can involve intimidation, harassment, physical force or threat of physical force against a person, a group or a property” (cbc news).

Canadian Criminal Code, s. 319

Hate Propaganda 319. (1) Every one who, by communicating statements in any public place, incites hatred against any identifiable group where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace is guilty of [indictable offence max. 2 years or summary conviction]

Wilful promotion of hatred319 (2) Every one who, by communicating statements, other than in private conversation, wilfully promotes hatred against any identifiable group is guilty of [indictable office max 2 years or summary conviction]

Because these sections of the criminal code deal directly with freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of the thought, all protected under the Charter of Rights and Bill of Rights, no prosecution can occur without the express consent of the Attorney General of a province or Canada.  The section also has some pretty strong defences;


(3) No person shall be convicted of an offence under subsection (2)
(a) if he establishes that the statements communicated were true;
(b) if, in good faith, the person expressed or attempted to establish by an argument an opinion on a religious subject or an opinion based on a belief in a religious text;
(c) if the statements were relevant to any subject of public interest, the discussion of which was for the public benefit, and if on reasonable grounds he believed them to be true; or
(d) if, in good faith, he intended to point out, for the purpose of removal, matters producing or tending to produce feelings of hatred toward an identifiable group in Canada.

It is illegal to communicate hatred in a public place by telephone, broadcast or through other audio or visual means. The same section protects people from being charged with a hate crime if their statements are truthful or the expression of a religious opinion. The section of the code on sentencing (718.2) encourages judges to consider whether the crime was motivated by hate of the victim’s race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation or any other similar factor. Under section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act it is a “discriminatory practice” to send hate messages via telecommunications equipment, including the internet.

There is a movement to eliminate the hate crimes from the criminal code in the name of freedom of speech, and the growing evidence that groups are trying to use the sections to prevent free and fair discussion and speech on matters of religion, culture, and doctrine.


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