The B.C. government is looking for ways to ticket people for “racist and hateful behaviour.”
NDP MLA Ravi Kahlon has asked the province’s Public Safety Minister Mike Fanworth to investigate what authority the provincial government has to go after people who engage in racism or are involved in “hate groups.”
The policy suggestion was scant on details and offered no definition of what such behaviour would actually entail.
True North reached out to Kahlon for comment on the policy suggestion, but had not heard back from his office by the time of the article’s publication.
According to lawyer and President of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, John Carpay, such a law would be “vague and arbitrary” because it’s impossible to provide an objective definition of the concept.
“While banning ‘hate’ is a laudable goal, what constitutes hate is entirely subjective, and in the eye of the beholder,” Carpay told True North.
“Mainstream feminist disagreement with transgenderism politics is described as ‘hateful,’ along with opposition to current immigration policies. It’s impossible to create or define an objective standard for “hate,” therefore any law that tries to crack down on ‘hate’ will be a vague and arbitrary law.”
A similar suggestion was made on the federal level when Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith suggested that the government should ticket people for “online hate.”
“The criminal code is not an effective instrument,” said Erskine-Smith during a justice committee meeting on online hate.
“The blunt instrument of imprisoning someone, putting them through a rigorous criminal trial, is probably not the right answer for enforcing rules against hate speech online in every instance.”
Erskine-Smith went on to suggest that a whole new judicial body be implemented to police the internet and charge offenders with monetary consequences.
Currently, hate crimes and incitement of hatred are criminal offences according to federal law which can lead to imprisonment.
Section 319 labels “public incitement of hatred” and “wilful promotion of hatred” as criminal offences which can land a person in jail for up to two years.
“This law was narrowly upheld as valid by the Supreme Court of Canada in a 4:3 ruling in R. v. Keegstra in 1990,” said Carpay.
“The Court recognized the importance of not ‘chilling’ free expression, and attempted to define hate narrowly. Do we really want more restrictions on speech, federally or provincially, when hate speech is already a crime?”