The National Post
Wednesday, November 25, 1998

Crackdown on hate materials planned

Criminal code reforms: Tougher laws would include penalties, hard drive seizures

by Jim Bronskill

Possession of hate propaganda for the purpose of distributing it to others could soon be a crime.

The measure is among several planned Criminal Code reforms aimed at toughening laws against the spread of hatred.

The package will include specific new penalties for the desecration of churches, cemeteries, and other institutions - a response to such crimes as the spray-painting of swastikas on gravestones and synagogues.

It would also include a Criminal Code revision allowing police to seize computer hard drives containing hate propaganda.

Another move would prevent those charged with promoting hatred from using the defence of truth based on a denial of the Holocaust or any other historically recognized act of genocide.

Federal and provincial justice ministers quietly agreed to the changes recently during a meeting in Regina.

"There was unanimous support for the principles here, that hate-motivated violence is something that we condemn", said Pierre Gratton, press secretary to Justice Minister Anne McLellan.

Federal justice officials are studying the planned revisions with the aim of bringing in legislation next year, Mr. Gratton said yesterday.

Current Criminal Code provisions prohibit anyone from inciting hatred against members of an identifiable group distinguished by colour, race, religion, or ethnic origin.

Under the changes, the list of characteristics would be expanded to include sex, sexual orientation, age, and mental or physical disability.

The new offence concerning possession would apply to those who have hate propaganda for the purpose of distributing it with the intention of promoting hate.

The provision will make it easier to crack down on hatemongers while protecting the right of people to openly discuss controversial issues, said Ujjal Dosanjh, British Columbia's attorney-general, who has been pushing for adoption of the new measures.

"It would preserve academic freedom, freedom of expression, and all of those values that we cherish", Mr. Dosanjh said yesterday in an interview.

"Promotion of hatred isn't a value that we cherish as Canadians, and that's where it would stop."

Copyright © 1998 by The National Post. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.