EXPANDING YOUR LEGAL TOOLS
By Terry Wilson
By Terry Wilson
Being a Police officer for many years, I believed I had used every avenue available to convict a criminal. I used every federal and provincial act to help keep criminals off the streets.
It wasnÆt until I spent six years as a hate investigator for the London Police Service that I learned of a new tool available to me – The Canadian Human Rights Act.
How I came to learn this was through an investigation involving a hate organization called CECT (Canadian Ethnic Cleansing Team) which had active members in London, Ontario.
Like many hate organizations, the CECT had a burning desire to express their hateful messages to the world.
They had two active web sites which were used to promote their white supremacist beliefs. Although the content was often alarming and inappropriate, there is a fine line between hateful words and criminal acts of distributing hate propaganda. Simple slang, crude images and derogatory names did not make a hate crime.
On Sept 11, 2001 New York, Washington and the world was crippled by the devastating effects of the murderous acts of extremist Muslims. The CECT jumped on the terror and directed all viewers to their web site to ôDeclare war on all Muslims and Jews.ö By making this public statement, the leaders of the CECT had committed six different criminal offences including counselling murder, counselling property damage, threats to property damage (two counts) and death threats (two counts).
Crown Council determined that there was no reasonable expectation of conviction and stayed every charge. Once again these extremists would be free to continue to spread hatred û until I received a much welcome call from an investigator at the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
He advised me that he was conducting an investigation based on a complaint from a citizen in regards to the CECT and the same hate messages I had investigated six months prior. I was happy to supply him with evidence that I had collected. Over the next three years, I learned who the Commission was, what authority they held, and most importantly how they can help fight hate motivated crimes in Canada.
The Canadian Human Rights Commission is the investigative body of the Canadian Human Rights Act. This act is a federal statute that is written to protect CanadianÆs from prejudice, bias and hate messages.
Often, investigations surrounding hate propaganda cover messages sent through telecommunications. In a previous precedent setting case against Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel, the Human Rights Tribunal declared the Internet to be a form of telecommunications as defined by Section 13 of the Act
But before the Commission could proceed against the CECT and the two leaders, they had to prove:
ò That declaring war on all ôJewsö and ôMuslims,ö was indeed a hate message, and
ò Using the Internet to convey this message met the definition of telecommunication
To my delight, both tests were met and we proceeded to a lengthy and public hearing.
The chain of events in a Human Rights hearing go as follows:
ò The Canadian Human Rights Commission investigates the complaint and determines if a hate message has been conveyed
ò If the facts in issue are met, a hearing is set and evidence is presented to the Human Rights Tribunal
ò The Tribunal is made up of judges or mediators who call evidence from the Commission, defendants and witnesses.
ò Both the commission and defence are afforded opportunities to present their cases
ò Once all the information is presented to the Tribunal they make a decision with the balance of probabilities being the test of guilt.
Guilty decisions can lead to hefty monitory fines, penalties and/or restrictions on the persons and groups activities. These restrictions are registered in the Federal court and therefore any breach is treated as a Criminal Offence. These restrictions may also be applied to any future members of the group. As you can see, the Human Right Commission has some teeth.
Anyone can make a complaint to the Human Right Commission and therefore it is our duty as police officers to ensure that victims of hate are aware of this process.
If we are going to fight hatred in Canada, we need to use every avenue available. The Canadian Human Rights Act, the Commission and Tribunal are powerful, useful and effective tools in restricting hate messages delivered by extremist groups in Canada.
- (1) It is a discriminatory practice for a person or a group of persons acting in concert to communicate telephonically or to cause to be so communicated, repeatedly, in whole or in part by means of the facilities of a telecommunication undertaking within the legislative authority of Parliament, any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt by reason of the fact that that person or those persons are identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.
Identifiable group in this act are as follows:
- (1) For all purposes of this Act, the prohibited grounds of discrimination are race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability and conviction for which a pardon has been granted.
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( Previously Published article May 2005 )
Terry Wilson is a former Detective with the New Westminster Police Service. He began his career with the London Police Service after graduating from the University of Guelph. In 1995 he adopted the hate crime portfolio for the Londong Police Service before moving to the New Westminster Police in 2003. Wilson has been designated an expert in hate symbols by the British Columbia Provincial Court and has testified at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. Wilson has lectured extensively in Canada and internationally on the investigation of hate crimes. In April 2015 Wilson retired from the police force and is presently consulting on Hate Crimes, Human Rights, Gender-based violence and Harassment.He may be contact by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.