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British Columbia wants to ticket people for racism, but for what exactly?

Left-wing politicians want to ticket racism in BC, but can they be trusted to not politicize it?
Andrew Donovan Montreal, QC

Ravi Kahlon, a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) in British Columbia, wants to crackdown on “racist and hateful behaviour” in the province.

How might this crackdown look in respect to public policy? Ticketing.

“I understand that some jurisdictions have implemented new, non-criminal sanctions to deter this behavior such as ticketing,” writes Kahlon in a letter to Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth. “I would be grateful if your ministry could determine what options might be available to better deter perpetrators.”

Throughout the month of November, there have been a number of articles written on the topic of stopping racism in British Columbia due to the province launching the Resilience BC Anti-Racism Network. This network is the result of Kahlon’s work on dealing with racism within the province.

What is this network exactly? The BC government explains its purpose and goals on their website.

The Resilience BC Anti-Racism Network will offer a multi-faceted, province wide approach with greater focus and leadership in identifying and challenging racism. The program will connect communities with information, supports and training they need to respond to, and prevent future incidents of, racism and hate.

This all sounds de rigueur of left-leaning governments in Canada in the current year as they embark on a neverending quest to defeat racism and hate in our provinces and, more broadly, our country.

However, the proposal of a non-criminal sanction — a ticket — for committing acts of racism is something new and without definition.

Defining Racism

Of the three articles I read on the idea of ticketing racists, it wasn’t clear what misconduct would result in someone being ticketed.

In a Global News article, Kahlon is quoted as saying, “People are afraid in their communities. They know that these hate groups are organizing in communities.”

In a Star Vancouver article, he told the reporter, “What we heard was quite disturbing; lots of incidents of racism, hate, and hate groups starting to organized in communities throughout the province.”

Even the news release by the BC government on the anti-racism network cited a rise in hate crimes in Metro Vancouver but didn’t go into specifics about statistics.

Remembering M-103

What constitutes racism in Canada has been a hot topic since March of 2017 when Iqra Khalid, the Liberal MP representing Mississauga — Erin Mills introduced Motion-103 Parliament.

M-103 called on the government to “condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination,” and asked the government to “recognize the need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear.”

Opposition to M-103 was strong among the conservative opposition. There were nation-wide protests sparked by the vagueness of what defined “hate and fear”, and the singling out of Islam as a target group of said ill-defined hate and fear.

Why definitions are important

Being called a racist can have massive social and economic ramifications. These ramifications would undoubtedly be exacerbated with the addition of a ticket.

Without knowing what constitutes an act worth ticketing, it’s irresponsible of Kahlon, his fellow politicians, or the media to even consider supporting his proposal no matter how virtuous its proponents make it seem.

Beyond (and more important than) the details of the Kahlon’s inquiry into ticketing racist behaviour is the clear encroachment on Canadians’ civil liberties — namely our right to free expression and free assembly.

It’s become fashionable in Canada to deny certain groups their right to conscious and expression.

Justin Trudeau’s Liberals tried to block pro-life groups from accessing federal funding for summer camp programmes. Granted, this decision was eventually overturned because of the backlash the Liberals received. But for a while, it was a reality.

Then there was the French-Canadian comedian, Mike Ward, who was fined $42,000 by the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal for a joke that offended a mother and her son.

And don’t forget the de-platforming of people like Jordan Peterson, Faith Goldy, Maxime Bernier, and just about everyone who works at The Rebel.

Sure, de-platforming isn’t a government directive, but it is a tactic being used by left-wing groups that’s made its way into the mainstream. Politicians are now looking to capitalise on the growing distaste some loud segments of the public have for free expression.

Just last month, hundreds protested the decision of the Toronto Public Library to allow “transexclusionary radical feminist” Meghan Murphy the right to speak at one of their locations.

The mayor of Toronto, John Tory, publically decried the event. Other councilors followed suit.

If we don’t clearly define what is allowable speech in Canada — or more poignant to this discussion, what defines racism and hate speech — we’re going to continue to see this tete-a-tete happening between the public, media and politicians.

We’re going to continue to see poorly defined concepts used to dictate public policy.

We’re going to see distrust build among and between cultural, religious, and racial groups.

Look no further than the anti-Israel protests that occurred at York University this week. Protesters screamed at Jewish students to “Go back to the ovens”, according to witness accounts, among other antisemitic chants.

If its Muslims directing that hateful language at Jews, is it in violation of M-103? Is it hate speech? Is it a ticketable offense in BC if Kahlon’s idea becomes a reality?

And if we answer yes to all of those questions, what will that do to relations between the Jewish and Islamic communities?

We can look globally to the Middle East and even parts of Europe to answer those questions.

To be clear, I am not saying direct calls to violence shouldn’t be punishable. I’m not suggesting there are no limitations to one’s freedom of expression. I am simply asking for these concepts to be better defined.

Definitions are of the utmost importance when it comes to law and public policy. Given the rather fragile state of Canada’s societal cohesion right now, there ought to be extraordinary caution taken when drafting policy that may curtail one’s expression.

No one in Canada wants what happened at York University to be seen as acceptable. On the other hand, no one wants undefined terms legislating what speech is acceptable and what speech ticketable.

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