EDMONTON -- The issue of racist hate-mongering on the Internet has been blown out of proportion, says an anti-racist educator.
That's because research shows there has been little interest in cyber-space sites that promote hatred when compared to other sites, says Ken McVay, director of the Nizkor Project.
His project has been set up "to deal with electronic fascism", as his Internet home page describes it -- and as McVay explained Sunday to a symposium on how to combat Internet hate sites.
The Nizkor site regularly gets 6,000 to 8,000 hits daily from those browsing the Internet, compared to up to 100 hits a day on the Ernst Zundel hate site out of California, McVay said.
By contrast, on the day that Princess Diana died last summer, there were about one million hits on The Times of London site.
"This issue has been taken far out of proportion", McVay said. "The media does a very bad job on this issue."
It does so by paying too much attention to what is basically a non-event in Canada, he said.
That includes paying too much attention to the likes of Zundel, a Toronto white supremacist whose main themes have been to deny the Holocaust.
Zundel appears to be directing an Internet hate site in California, McVay said, and he has been the subject of a Canadian Human Rights Commission tribunal dealing with the issue, although its ruling has not been made.
But there are few such hate sites in Canada itself, McVay said. "My view is that we should take away Zundel's market by educating his intended victims."
The Nanaimo, B.C., resident is doing just that with his Nizkor site (on the Internet at http://www.nizkor.org/) dealing with facts about the Holocaust.
Education rather than legislation is probably a more powerful way to deal with racism and hatred, McVay said.
"We have had anti-hate speech laws for 25 years and the hate hasn't gone away. If there is hate on the Net, it's a reflection of our society."
Dealing with the issue through legal means may well require updated laws, federal Justice Department official Richard Mosley told the symposium attended by about 60 people.
While it is illegal to promote hatred in Canada, the current laws were drafted decades before the advent of the Internet, said Mosley, the department's assistant deputy minister.
Many hate sites also operate out of the United States, he noted, and Canada is working with that country on ways to deal with trans-border search and seizure procedures involving Canadians. Within Canada, law enforcement officials complain of a lack of resources and skills to deal with Internet crime, Mosley said.