The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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by Steven H. Shulman

There are many legal remedies available in Canada to respond
to hate activity, be it hate propaganda or other criminal
acts motivated by hate of a particular group or groups. This
chapter will attempt to provide an overview of the most
important legal remedies currently available and their
relative strengths and weaknesses in combating hate

5.1 Hate Activitv and The Law

A natural question which arises is how to define the
abstract concept of "hate". After all, hate in and of itself
is an emotion rather than a concrete act. The emotion of
hate often results in specific acts being carried out.

Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines hatred as
follows: "prejudiced hostility or animosity (old racial
prejudices and national prejudices).">Webster' s Ninth New
Collegiate Dictionary>

The context provided by legislation and its application to
actual events is often more helpful in defining terms. That
view is certainly applicable to defining the concept of
hate. There are a myriad of definitions which have been used
by the courts in various instances. One of the more helpful
definitions and that which carries the greatest weight in
legal terms is the one developed by the Supreme Court of
Canada in the criminal case of R. v. Keegstra (1990) 3
S.C.R. 697.

Hatred connotes an emotion of an intense and extreme nature
that is clearly associated with vilification and
detestation. It is an emotion that, if exercised against
members of an identifiable group, implies that those
individuals are to be despised, scorned, denied respect and
made subject to ill-treatment on the basis of group

Although the definition in the Keegstra case involved the
section of the Criminal Code of Canada which acts as the
crirninal sanction against the most extreme forms of hate
propaganda (ie. wilfill promotion of hatred against an
identifiable group), the definition is relevant to the
entire class of hate-related cases.

There is a clear progression implied in the Supreme Court's
definition of hatred. The definition deals with an emotion
which can result in specific harmful or concrete acts (e.g.
discrimination, violence, etc.) against identifiable groups
in our society. Essentially, implicit in the definition is a
continuum from hate propaganda, to discrimination, to
physical violence in the worst case scenario.
As with all other facets of human interaction, the law does
not provide a solution to the problem of hate in our society.
World history and current events teach us that humanity has
not yet evolved to the point where it has produced a fool-
proof solution to hate. Rather, legal remedies are among the
tools available in the constant struggle against hate moving
our society away from freedom and democracy. Other tools
include education and the promotion of social interaction.
However, it should be stressed that the law has an important
role to play, most often in situations where education or the
promotion of social interaction are non-starters.

A common criticism leveled against legal remedies is that
they are reactive rather than pro-active. Legal remedies are
most often applied in response to conduct which has akeady
occurred, be it the dissemination of hate propaganda or
criminal acts motivated by hate against minority groups,
although there are notable exceptions. However, the
importance of legal remedies goes above and beyond a solely
punitive function.

Legislation, be it in the form of criminal sanctions, human
rights law, immigration law, or judge-made law (ie. comrnon
law) sends a message to our multicultural society about
values of decency and tolerance accepted as the norm by our
Government and, by extension, the vast majority of
Canadians. Particularly in a diverse city like Toronto, the
mere existence of legal sanctions to deal with those who
would seek to attack identifiable groups because of their
race, religion, ethnicity, beliefs, or other factors
provides a great measure of comfort to minority groups.
These remedies send the message that this society is
different than those which have historically allowed abuses
against minority groups, often with the state's help. In
Canada, the state, through the law, plays a role in fighting
such acts. Certainly, the legal remedies available need to
be used to underscore that message.

Finally, the existence of legal remedies which are available
to combat hate act as a deterrent against hate activity.
While it is impossible to scientifically measure how many
individuals are deterred from promoting hatred or cawing out
crirninal acts or human rights violations motivated by hate,
as a result of existing legislation, anecdotal evidence
provides some support for the argument in favour of
deterrence. The best anecdotal evidence of the deterrent
effect of anti-hate legislation in the Metropolitan Toronto
area is provided by the rise and fall of local "hate
telephone lines", discussed below.

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