Hate Crime in Canada

As a writer I’m a little conflicted about the state censoring free speech.  Freedom requires the ability to speak freely, and in a perfect world everyone should be free to discuss contentious issues.  But words aren’t neutral, and sometimes words are weaponized.  Which is why even nations that protect freedom of speech use law to limit it when necessary.

Defamation and Libel break the law using only words. So does cyber bullying and criminal harassment. False advertising and fraud are crimes that can be committed with words.  And threatening someone is Assault under the Criminal Code of Canada, as is Sedition.  All of these things (and undoubtedly more that I’ve missed) are limitations on free speech.

In addition to these word based crimes that limit our freedom of speech, Canada also has laws against hate speech and hate crime.  Since the election of American President Donald Trump, acts of hatred have been on the rise, not just there, but throughout the world.  Certainly here in Canada.  American society seems especially prone to allowing words and actions used to incite or assault, and even privacy invasion to be protected as “free speech.”

“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: What is a Hate Crime?

Although there is some variety across Canadian jurisdictions,

“A hate crime is a criminal offence committed against a person or property that is based solely upon the victim’s race, religion, nationality, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, gender or disability.”

Metropolitan Toronto Police Force,
2.3 Hate/Bias Crime Definitions used in Canada: Disproportionate Harm: Hate Crime in Canada

Even if there is no other Criminal Code violation, hate crimes can be charged on their own.   But when elements of any crime has aspects of hate crime, either separate additional charges can be laid against the perpetrator, or the punishment can be enhanced by the gravity of the crime.

The Criminal Code of Canada’s Purpose and Principles of Sentencing says:

Fundamental principle

 A sentence must be proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender.

  • R.S., 1985, c. 27 (1st Supp.), s. 156;
  • 1995, c. 22, s. 6.
Marginal note:Other sentencing principles

 A court that imposes a sentence shall also take into consideration the following principles:

  • (a) a sentence should be increased or reduced to account for any relevant aggravating or mitigating circumstances relating to the offence or the offender, and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing,

    • (i) evidence that the offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression, or on any other similar factor,


    • (iii.1) evidence that the offence had a significant impact on the victim, considering their age and other personal circumstances, including their health and financial situation,

Barbara Kentner August 21, 1982 – July 4, 2017

I’m not a lawyer, so I can’t say exactly what charges should be laid against the young man who threw the heavy metal trailer hitch at a couple of random Indigenous women walking down a Thunder Bay street.

From what I’ve read, neither victim or perpetrators knew each other.  The action was deliberate.

The heavy piece of metal didn’t fly out of a car window accidentally or through negligence.

A young man leaned out the window holding the heavy metal object that might weigh as much as 50 pounds— a proverbial blunt instrument.  To put this in perspective, the heaviest legal weight for a bowling ball is 16 pounds.  It wasn’t a small thing to hold, much less throw.

Certainly the other three people in the car with him had to be aware of what he was doing.  Two of them turned themselves in to police the next day, but the perpetrator and the driver of the car did not.

The only explanation for this action lay in the words 18 year old Brayden Bushby shouted after he threw the thing that knocked down and fatally injured Barbara Kentner.

Oh, I got one

These words indicate this was no random act of violence, it was clearly deliberate.  It doesn’t matter whether “one” referred to the gender or race of his victim.  It does matter that these words make clear he wasn’t attacking a specific person, he was targeting women or Indigenous women.  Which makes it a hate crime.

Why do we have hate crime laws?

“The impact of such crimes is far reaching, extending beyond the physical and emotional trauma to the victim, to encompass other members of the groups and broader community. Such crimes can heighten the isolation and vulnerability of the victim’s group and cause stress for all members of the community. If unchecked, these crimes can result in an escalation in social tensions between different groups that can destroy communities, thereby furthering the aims and objectives of those in our society who promote hatred and intolerance.”

— Policing Standards of Ontario

In recent months the Ontario city of Thunder Bay has been prominent in news stories in connection with racism.

In June, Statistics Canada reported that most of the police-reported hate incidents in Thunder Bay targeted Indigenous people, accounting for 29 per cent of all anti-Aboriginal hate crimes across Canada in 2015.

“Young people have told me repeatedly of walking home and having things flung at them out of cars,” Thunder Bay MP and Liberal cabinet minister Patty Hajdu said following the release of the Statistics Canada report.

National Post: Escalating racism toward Indigenous people ‘a real problem’ in Thunder Bay: grand chief

The City of Thunder Bay’s Anti-Racism & Respect Advisory Committee has put together tools for reporting racism.  The situation has become so dire Thunder Bay has joined with the Fort William First Nation and Nishnawbe Aski Nation in hopes of addressing its crisis of racism.

And yet to date, the only criminal charged brought against Brayden Bushby— the man who deliberately threw the trailer hitch that led to Barbara Kentner’s death— is aggravated assault.  Because “investigators did not feel there was enough evidence to call the crime hate-motivated.

I’m no lawyer, but I simply cannot comprehend how a stranger who targeted Indigenous women, killing one in a drive-by, could be anything but a hate crime.   Several reports mention charges might be upgraded based on the Coroner’s Report (whenever it comes out) but so far nothing.

We all must work together to acknowledge that racism exists. We must combat and report racism. We must take this very seriously. This has been going on for far too long. This is our reality as many Indigenous Peoples, especially our women, have come to me with their stories. It’s very disturbing and frightening. There is an escalation of violence in this city, and we must not minimize these horrible situations.

Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Deputy Grand Chief Anna Betty Achneepineskum

Thunder Bay’s Mayor expressed his condolences to the family, but has since been charged with extortion in an unrelated matter, and Thunder Bay police chief’s charges tied to issue with the city’s mayor.  At the same time the Office of the Independent Police Review Directorate, began a review of the Thunder Bay Police last November in response to “allegations of “systemic racism” when dealing with all cases of murdered and missing indigenous people.

Clearly the City of Thunder Bay is in crisis, but nonetheless the justice system can not be allowed to forget the 34 year old mother who lost her life, who spent months dying in agony,  because a man didn’t recognize she was a human being.  He didn’t think there would be consequences for his grotesque act.

But a life was taken.  Barbara Kentner’s life was taken.

Woman. Sister. Aunt. Cousin. Mother.

A life that can’t ever be returned to a family and community that mourns the senseless loss.

We as a society must say “NO” to hate speech and hate crime.  The best way to do this is by teaching our children not to hate.  But apparently not enough of us are.  Education and outreach programs can help, but until then, the way to deal with hate crimes and violence is through the justice system.   It seems Thunder Bay’s Crown Prosecutor needs to be reminded justice demands this perpetrator must answer for taking a life.  Not for vengeance, but because every life has value.  And hate crimes have real consequences.

Justice must be done.  Which is why I’m asking you to join me in signing this petition.  Please sign and share.

Sign The Petition to the Crown Prosecutor Thunder Bay:
Ensure Barbara Kentner’s Justice: Brayden Bushby Must Be Charged With More Serious Charges

 

#MyCanada doesn’t torture children

When I was a kid at Conestoga Bible Camp, we did an exercise where we were supposed to hold our arms in the air above our heads the way Moses is said to have done in order to part the Red Sea. The idea was that he had to keep his arms in the air to keep the sea parted long enough for all the people to get across. So how about you try it now: how long can you hold your arms in the air above your head before it starts to get uncomfortable. Before it starts to get painful.  Now imagine how it would feel if you had two through & through bullet holes in your chest.

Some people are saying Omar Khadr wasn’t tortured.  The 15 year old Canadian boy was dug out of the rubble with two gaping exit wounds in his chest.  He wasn’t expected to survive.  When he was still a long way from recovery in the Bagram prison camp, he was hung from his wrists.  For hours.  Sounds like torture to me.

Canadian Politics

Canada is nominally a Representative Democracy.  Canadian voters elect representatives who are supposed to represent our interests– to govern in our names– in the House of Commons, the Canadian lower house of our Parliament.  Unfortunately, because Members of Parliament (MPs) are elected with a winner-take-all electoral system, our government is adversarial.  So instead of fostering co-operation, and creating policy in the best interests of all Canadians, we have been seeing increasing polarization, not just of political parties, but of citizens.  Such a system creates a class system by dividing Canadians into those who have representation and those who have not.  One side is the winner with all the power and everyone else are losers. Continue reading

What Omar #Khadr Did or Didn’t Do is NOT The Issue #CDNpoli

Omar Khadr at age 14.

When a 15 year old Canadian child named Omar Khadr was dug out of the rubble on July 27, 2002 he was so badly wounded he was not expected to survive.

Child Soldier

At the age of ten he was uprooted from his life in Canada by his father and taken away to Afghanistan.

The UN Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict establishes that children younger than 18 who are involved in armed conflicts are Child Soldiers.  This protocol was written in 2000, but it came into force on into force on 12 February 2002.  This is an “optional” protocol, meaning there is no obligation for any nation to sign it.  But Canada is a signatory to this.  By signing and ratifying this protocol, the Canadian Government voluntarily chose to place Canada under its terms, so it it is no longer “optional.”

This protocol recognizes the fact that child soldiers are children, and children are not entirely responsible for themselves or their decisions.  This is hardly a stretch: Canadian Law recognizes this too.  We have a special set of criminal laws for children.  Children are not allowed to sign legal contracts or legally able to consent for themselves; a parent or guardian is required to decide whether or not to consent on their behalf.

Omar Khadr was only 15 years old when the compound he was in in Afghanistan was attacked by the American military.  Under Canadian Law he was a Child Soldier.

Charter Rights

Omar Khadr was born Canadian. He has always been a Canadian citizen. Continue reading

Why I’m NOT #Proud of #Canada150

Electoral Reform?

For someone generally proud to be lucky enough to be Canadian, instead of being excited about Canada Day on our nation’s 150th Anniversary, I was embarrassed to be a Canadian. Not because Prime Minister Justin Trudeau believes himself to be an all powerful autocrat with the right to over rule his own party’s overwhelmingly adopted policy and thumb his nose at the majority of Canadians who believe Canada ought to provide citizens with fair representation.   That was bad, that was really, really bad, but that isn’t it.

Money?

We had a big coast to coast half a billion dollar party CBC reports that More than 70% of Canada 150 swag made outside the country

Oh, but that’s not the government’s fault:

The government argues that international trade agreements don’t allow it to restrict the competition for government contracts to Canadian companies or manufacturers — even when it comes to Canada 150 merchandise.

Its all the fault of those pesky “free trade” agreements, not the governments who negotiated these agreements in secret then sign & ratify them so they have no choice but to require massive changes to our domestic law (and now unaccountable international corporate trade tribunals to fine us if we fail) to comply.  This excuse is a classic case of adding insult to injury.

Annoying as that is, that is not my problem.

Colonialism150?

Bingo!  The problem is colonization, something that didn’t just happen hundreds of years ago, but a process continuing as Canadian government policy to this day.

Continue reading

Pharmacare Town Hall TONIGHT!

Our American friends are debating whether Health Care is a human right, but Canadians decided that it was long ago.  Which is why it is bizarre that, of all the countries with Universal Health Care, Canada is the only country that doesn’t have Universal Pharmacare!

In 2014, Dr. Eric Hoskins ~ Ontario’s Liberal Minister of Health and Long-Term Care ~ wrote an OpEd for the Globe and Mail explaining Why Canada needs a national pharmacare program

It has been estimated that Universal public drug coverage would:

  • reduce total spending on prescription drugs in Canada by $7.3 billion
  • save the Private Sector $8.2 billion
  • increase costs to government $1.0 billion

Continue reading

Defenders of the Status Quo

Yesterday Canadian Members of Parliament voted against Nathan Cullen’s Motion to concur in the Second Report of the Special Committee on Electoral Reform ~ which would have meant adopting the ERRÉ Committee Recommendations

Negatived
Yeas 146 | Nays 159

MPs who voted

Two Liberal MPs voted to concur in the Second Report of the Special Committee on Electoral Reform, but all the rest (159 LPC MPs) voted against it.  Find out who voted, and how on the Government site.

None of the ERRE Committee Liberals voted for their own report!   Francis Scarpaleggia, Ruby Sahota, Matt DeCourcey and John Aldag voted against, while Sherry Romanado (along with another 20 Liberal MPs) abstained from voting.

Continue reading

An Open Letter to ERRÉ Committee Liberals

Letter sent to: Francis Scarpaleggia, Ruby Sahota, Matt DeCourcey, Sherry Romanado and John Aldag


Dear ERRÉ Committee Members:

I am exceptionally invested in Electoral Reform; having watched and participated in many of your meetings as well as being involved in many local DIY Community Dialogues and Information Sessions.  I was unable to attend your single Ontario stop on your Cross Country Tour in Toronto because we were putting on a previously scheduled Info Night in a local library. After a life spent voting in every election for over three decades my vote has never actually elected an MP or an MPP.  I am frankly tired of electoral futility, and especially of being a second class citizen.

It isn’t that I’ve been voting for some wild fringe party– over the years I have voted for candidates from each of the 4 major parties in English Canada.  But the futility of casting my vote had me considering joining the ranks of non-voters … until I started learning about Proportional Representation.

It’s time Canada actually became the Representative Democracy I was told it was back in High School.  Not just for me, but for my son.  And my nieces and nephews… and everyone else’s kids, too.  Because I was raised to leave a place better than I found it.   And at least once before I die, I’d like to know that when I vote, it might actually count.

When MPs tell me they can represent all their constituents they are wrong.  Oh, sure, any good MP can represent all their constituents in their constituency work, but that is not why MPs are sent to Ottawa.  150 years ago that wasn’t even in the job description.   We voters send you to Ottawa to represent us, but the First Past The Post reality is that when MPs are in the legislature, you vote the way the party tells you.

Continue reading