Friday, July 04, 2008

Why did we create "Hate Crime"?

This is something that has mystified me for some time. Why did we need to create a category of criminal behaviour called "Hate Crime"?

If I hand you a knife and say "go stab that guy", it should be completely irrelevant why I told you to do it. What does the motivation matter? I'm encouraging you to go and commit an assault. Whether I did it because I believe homosexuals are evil or because Allah told me to do it is entirely beside the point.

If I stand up on a soap box in public and exhort listening throngs of people to go commit acts of violence against homosexuals, an ethnic minority, disabled people, Anglicans or abortion providers, I should also go to jail. It shouldn't have anything to do with "hatred". What matters is that I'm an accessory to violence and assault.

Now if I read this analysis, which is a legal opinion I suppose, the implication here is that - in point of fact - before bill C-250 existed it was actually legal in Canada to advocate mass murder and encourage your followers to commit acts of violence against other members of society.

Really? Is that really, honestly true that, in Canada, before bill C-250, I could stand on a box in the middle town, frothing at the mouth, and declare that all homosexuals ought to be rounded up and stoned?

If that's the case, then damn right we needed a law. I just have difficulty believing that our legal system had missed such an obvious flaw for such a long time. That's not the case for, say, dueling. The Canadian Criminal Code, article 71, punishes dueling, provoking a duel and encouraging another to provoke a duel.

What bothers me though, assuming we needed this law, are the exceptions such as:
A person could not be convicted if:
"in good faith, he expressed or attempted to establish by argument an opinion on a religious subject."

So a guy standing on a box declaring that Jews are bad for the economy and we ought to get rid of them goes to jail (damn right). But a guy standing behind a piece of wood in a pointy building declaring that all homosexuals ought to be stoned to death doesn't go jail. (Huh?)

That seems pretty counterintuitive. What if a guy argues from a pulpit that the bible says that Jews are bad and that the bible says we ought to get rid of them? Does that become acceptable speech?

It seems that if encouraging this sort of chaotic violence against other people is illegal, it ought to be illegal for anyone to encourage this sort of chaotic violence against anyone else. There ought not to be exceptions because you really, really believe god wants you to do it.

Recommend this PostProgressive Bloggers


Anonymous said...

When someone kills or assaults a person based on their membership in a given racial or religious group, their actions also have the effect of threatening and intimidating the entire group in question. Hence stiffer punishment for such crimes.

Likewise, there are plenty of ways a racist can incite harassment and violence against vunerable groups without advocating specific actions. For instance, if one claims members of a given race carry a horrible disease or are somehow a danger to society it's reasonable to expect that those claims could result in some people treating members of that race in a discriminatory or unlawful manner. Hence laws that make it illegal to say or publish statment "likely to expose a person or a class of persons to hatred or contempt."

Greg said...

I suppose that might make sense for section 319, but only if the law didn't have an exception for "if on reasonable grounds he believed them to be true". Doesn't that just let every ignorant git get away with it anyway? You'd have to prove that the guy you're charging doesn't believe what he's saying.

But section 318 specifically refers to "inciting genocide". Was it really legal in Canada to incite genocide?

I'm not really arguing that we don't need laws like this. If we really had gaps in our legal system that allowed the advocacy of genocide, we certainly needed to plug those holes. But why plug them with a colander?