Few mechanisms in place to monitor hate speech and white supremacist activity in Canada, anti-racism expert says

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A 2009 Alberta Hate Crimes Committee report proposed among its recommendations an amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada to include "a standard hate crime definition for all law enforcement in Canada and provide improved collection, analysis, and dissemination of hate crime data, which would contribute significantly to community-policing initiatives as the bedrock of civil society."

Dutton agrees with this recommendation, citing the lack of a national database of hate groups as a major problem for curtailing the trend of under-reporting. 

Canadian Anti-racism and community organizer Alan Dutton. Photo source: Alan Dutton.

"We've lost support for any community groups that are tracking or monitoring hate groups."

Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act allowed the Human Rights Commission to hold hearings and give penalties to individuals and groups who communicate “hate messages by telephone or on the Internet.” It was repealed in June 2012 as a private member’s bill from Conservative MP Brian Storseth (Westlock - St. Paul AB). Dutton said this was a huge blow to the handful of organizations who were monitoring hate speech and groups operating in Canada.

"Not only did we lose section 13 [of the Canadian Human Rights Act], we've lost support for any community groups that are tracking or monitoring hate groups," he said.

Citizens, community groups, police and politicians need to work together to combat a problem that goes beyond community and provincial borders, Dutton said.

He cited groups such as Blood and Honour, Volksfront, and the Northern Hammerskins as active white supremacist groups in Canada that are recruiting an increasing number of young men and women into their ranks.

"Obviously we have hate groups that operate in various countries and they want to make contacts to recruit in Canada, but we don't have a strategy or know the numbers of these hate groups," he said. "It's so fractured that we have cases of individuals who have been prosecuted for hate crime, and who have violated conditions of their parole by being present in organized racist meetings and demonstrations and are still left on parole."

Canada's shameful racist past 

Darren E. Lund, a professor of education at the University of Calgary who has written about the Ku Klux Klan in Alberta and white privilege, agrees that Canada needs community leaders and political representatives to take protecting Canada's diversity more seriously. 

"Canadians like to pride ourselves on being an accepting and proudly multicultural nation, but this country has a long and shameful past of discriminatory government policies and historical events," Lund wrote in an email to The Vancouver Observer, in reference to the Klan's activities in Canada during the 1920s and 30s, with Alberta having the dubious distinction of granting the Klan their own charter. He also said that racism in Canadian society exists now in a "coded" manner of speaking about "those people" coming to Canada and "true Canadian values."

"In many cases, these ways of speaking about non-white people sound very much like white supremacist ways of seeing our country," he added.

Ultimately, politicans cannot rely on assuming that Canada is post-racial, and need to prioritize monitoring and tracking hate speech on the internet for the safety of all Canadians, Dutton said.

"Policing is a blunt tool, and we need coordinated effort between citizens, police, community leaders, and politicians," he said. "When its fractured, then the doors open." 

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