Alberta Arab News
|Canada’s hate laws have selective application
April 29, 2004
On April 5, the United Talmud Torah elementary school in Montreal was firebombed. Fortunately, nobody was hurt.
Shortly after the event, Jewish leaders met with Prime Minister Paul Martin and demanded action against “anti-Semitism.” They got it—a multi-million-dollar, multi-year federal anti-racism plan. As expected, the B’nai Brith and the Canadian Jewish Congress clucked their approval.
In the Globe and Mail, Canada’s only credible national newspaper, the firebombing earned a banner headline, and the story with picture covered the entire front page above the fold and then some. Martin even solemnly intoned: “This is not our Canada.”*
The key point here is the implicit equation of “anti-Semitism” with anti-racism. Sadly, this is our Canada, and nowhere is this fact made more obvious than in the utterances of Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, Israel’s de facto agent in Cabinet.
Inasmuch as he intones the requisite égalitarian verities of multicultural rectitude, Cotler cannot hide his bias. In this speech made six days before the firebombing he said:
“Hate crime against any identifiable group constitutes an assault on the inherent integrity and worth of the human person. It constitutes an assault on the equal dignity of all persons. It constitutes an assault on the rights of minorities and constitutes an assault on the fragility of our multicultural democracy. In the House of Commons, we recently passed a unanimous resolution condemning anti-Semitism. And I stated on behalf of the Government that we will not be silent: we will bring the requisite moral, political, and juridical leadership to bear to combat hate crimes.**
Note the conspicuous moral “sandwich”—“hate crime”–“anti-Semitism”–“hate crime.” At any time in the past, the federal government could have passed a resolution in the wake of an anti-Sikh, anti-African or anti-Arab hate crime, but in Canada, offences against Jews are deemed more important and newsworthy.
In March, vandals entered the Al-Mahdi Mosque in Pickering Ontario, sprayed “Jesus Rules” on the walls, broke tables and chairs, and set fire to it. Since September 2001, CAIR-CAN has documented hate-activity against 15 Islamic institutions and mosques, including attempted arson, destruction and defacement of mosque property, and graffiti threats. Attacks such as the one in Pickering reinforce community fear and anxiety because mosques are not simply places of worship but also social and community centers.†
Is this our Canada? Apparently, since the government did not deem this attack to be worthy of comment. As Trent University Professor Michael Neumann noted in his Counterpunch essay, crimes against Jewish targets get front-page treatment, but attacks against Arabs and Muslims are given summary treatment and buried on the inside pages, if they are reported at all. Such equal respect for the suffering of Muslims and Jews, of course, would be an embarrassment for Israeli lobbyists.
This selective sympathy comes at the expense not only of Muslims, particularly Arab Muslims, but all Canadians, and for this reason the nation’s hate-crime laws need to be overhauled if not repealed.
Disseminating hate propaganda and advocating genocide entered the Criminal Code in the mid-1960s following the recommendations of the Cohen Commission. At the time, groups like the Natural Order Party and the Canadian Nazi Party were growing, so the measures seemed reasonable. Four defences for legitimate expression were also included to prevent malicious prosecution.††
However, these guarantees are coming under attack. Remember B’nai Brith Canada— that bastion of tolerance and human rights? In mid-March, it came out with an audit of “anti-Semitic” incidents and recommended that the government no longer allow truth to be a defence against the charge of promoting hate.
So, anyone who says, for example, that Israel is illegitimate and practises genocide toward Palestinians can be charged, even though both these statements are demonstrably true. The same goes for anyone who decries the pervasive zionist influence on government policy or the media. When an interest group exploits the law instrumentally to define what is right, we no longer live in a free society, and this brings me back to the firebombing.
As far as trigger mechanisms go, it was insignificant; in fact, there is no evidence to suggest that it justified a nationwide anti-racism program.
In the case of Jews, they have powerful lobby groups to protect them, although ironically these groups are responsible for exposing them to whatever violence they may face. Thus, Cotler’s fraudulent equation of anti-zionism with anti-Jewishness breeds the very “anti-Semitism” he purports to abhor. Of course, fomenting “anti-Semitism” and exaggerating anti-Jewish activity reinforces the image of Jewish suffering, which in turn makes anti-racism campaigns useful tools to indoctrinate us, especially our children, with the zionist version of reality.
We can see this bias if we read between the lines of Cotler’s description of the new anti-racism plan: “[It] has a panoply of initiatives. It has an education component. It has a legal component and it has an inter-cultural dialogue component [in order to] mobilize a constituency of conscience in this country.” It will also reinforce current laws and give police new powers.§
Hate-crime legislation has been a failure because hate is not defined and because the law is not applied equally. For the sake of our freedoms, these sections of the Criminal Code should be repealed until such time as the law can speak for all Canadians.
* Michael Neumann, “A Happy Compromise Hate Crime Reporting in the Toronto Globe & Mail,” Counterpunch, April 14, 2004.
** “Speech By Irwin Cotler Minister Of Justice And Attorney General Of Canada Forum On Human Trafficking, ” March 30, 2004.
† “Muslims Call on Police to Investigate Mosque Hate Crime, ” CAIR–CAN press release, March 26, 2004. CAIR—CAN condemned the Montreal firebombing and recent attacks on Jewish homes in Toronto.
†† Criminal Code of Canada, Part IX.
§ Ron Csillag, “Canadian government to fight racism,” Canadian Jewish News,
April 22, 2004.