Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Abolish "Hate Crimes" Section

Hatred, as any dictionary will tell you, is a "feeling" or "emotion". Crimes, on the other hand, are actions. Hatred should not be a crime anymore than, say, "jealousy" or "greed" should be crimes. Acted on, they can become crimes; until then they are not.

Jealousy, like any of the seven deadly feelings, (surely no one speaks of "sins" any longer in a post-religious age?) can lead to crimes to be sure. Think of "crimes of passion". The distinction between thoughts and actions is essential and, as George Orwell showed in Nineteen Eighty-Four, the creation of "thought crime" is from another kind of regime than a free and democratic one. That is where "hate-crimes" is taking us - - in the direction of a closed or less open society.

It is the actions consequent upon the feeling or emotion not the feeling itself that is, or should be, criminalized. All crimes require two things to be present, the mens rea (guilty mind) and the actus reus (surrounding circumstances including the alleged criminal acts). Nobody yet suggests that passion should be an offence, that having the negative thoughts is the same as committing the crime. Yet this is what we are in danger of doing with so-called "hate crimes".

The creation of a "hate crimes" section in the Criminal Code was formed out of good intentions back when the idea was first created. The purpose originally was to protect Jews and who could be against that noble purpose.

Even at the time however there were those who expressed concern about the creation of such a crime and, note well, its extension into other areas. Civil libertarians and others originally expressed concerns and put them on the record. Years later it appears that their concerns about extension were well founded.

Now the attempt, Bill C-250 which has been heroically resisted by various people including Senator Anne Cools, is close to receiving what might be its third and final reading before the Senate. It would extend the category to those who wish protection under the banner of "sexual orientation". The justification for this is that such people are not covered under the law. They claim that since various gays and lesbians and others have been the subject of crimes they need the protection of the Section. This assumes both that the Section as it stands is valid and that the extension is required. Neither is true.

The crimes that certain people have suffered are crimes and punishable as such. They do not need the creation of a new offence for feelings or emotions that is wide-open to abuse and that is present in a Section of this sort. There has been no more active a group in Canada over the past decade or so in challenging other Canadians than the "gay-rights lobby" and their current spokespeople in Canada make it abundantly clear that they want this Section changed to include them so that they can use it.

In such an atmosphere where many religious groups have expressed fears that they will be targeted under this legislation for their affirmation of traditional sexuality - - which is, note well, stigmatize as "homophobic" "heterosexist" and, yes, "hateful" by the other side, it would be folly for Canadian lawmakers to give one already very powerful group a club with which to beat others.

Is this paranoid? Not at all. Given the history of litigation, the nature of the rhetoric in which, as the editorial page of the Globe and Mail recently noted, "tolerance" is not sufficient but "welcome" (for gays and lesbians) is essential, it doesn't take much in the way of insight to see that what is being set up brick by brick is the platform from which to attack religions and religious adherents. Such attacks have been seen throughout history and it would be ignorance of the first order for us to assume it cannot happen in Canada.

To fail to see this in the current climate is blindness to refuse to examine it is cowardice. The Section should not be added to, it should be removed entirely from the Criminal Code and sooner rather than later.

Iain T. BensonĀ©