Central Alberta village councils balk at NDP ‘hate symbol’ effort

Two village councils in central Alberta were hesitant to support an NDP backbench MP’s efforts to ban what his letter called “hate symbols,” though the hesitation appears to have been for different reasons.

Councils for the Village of Alix and the Village of Clive read a letter from NDP MP for New Westminster-Burnaby Peter Julian at their March 2 regular meeting regarding his private member’s bill, Bill C-229 amending the Criminal Code (prohibiting hate symbols), which stated that certain symbols should not be bought and sold due to their threatening nature and it was seeking council support for this legislation.

“Everyone deserves to live in safety and dignity,” Julian’s letter read. “Everyone has the right to feel welcomed and respected in their community.

“Yet during the pandemic, racist incidents reported to the police have increased at an alarming rate.

“Tragically, we have seen an increase in Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia and misogyny in our society.

“We are seeing a rise in racism against Indigenous Peoples, Blacks, Asians and other racially marginalized communities, while hate symbols continue to be displayed and sold across our country.

“Last week, I reintroduced my Private Member’s Bill C-229 to prevent anyone from selling and displaying symbols that promote hatred and violence against identifiable groups. Allowing these symbols of hate to be sold in stories or displayed publicly is a threat to people who have been and continue to be targets of violence and oppression.

“As we have seen over the past two weeks, in protests around the Freedom Convoy, Canadians have witnessed despicable, genocidal displays of hateful symbols such as Nazi swastikas and the waving of flags. Confederates at the very heart of Canadian democracy.

Com. Ed Cole was concerned about the symbol ban, commenting that “…there is a fine line between free speech and hate speech”. Cole added that protecting free speech is very important and that he would not be happy with any restrictions on free speech in Canada.

Cole explained to his peers that he sold military memorabilia, including black-and-white photographs of World War II warships, including warships belonging to Nazi Germany. Cole said photographs of these ships usually display the visible Nazi flag, including the infamous swastika.

Cole noted that he was very concerned that if this bill passed and he sold one of these photos, he might get in trouble. “If you’re selling this picture, did you just engage in hate speech?” Cole asked the council.

Cole noted that he would have to read the specific wording of the bill before he could approve it.

Cole, a retired RCMP officer, noted that courts are generally reluctant to impose restrictions on free speech.

Com. Janice Besuijen said she felt the bill was about ending the promotion of hate and not about historical discussion.

Com. Tim Besuijen wondered why the freedom convoy was mentioned, adding that the way Julian described the convoy seemed exaggerated.

Mayor Rob Fehr said he was also hesitant to endorse the bill because banning hate speech is a very broad subject for an MP, suggesting instead that it is one the courts should decide. He also said he would like to read the entire bill before supporting anything.

Fehr added that the bill appears to be a knee-jerk reaction to an event very fresh in people’s memory. Councilors accepted the letter for information.

Clive refuses

At their regular meeting on February 28, Clive Village Councilors also read Julian’s letter.

In a phone call to the ECA Review on March 4, Village Administrative Manager (CAO) Carla Kenney said councilors had discussed the letter but refused to do more than accept it as a document. ‘information.

Kenney said the village does not have an approval policy, but rather decides support requests on a case-by-case basis. Kenney said she also provided advisers with a list of previous decisions they had made.

The general manager said Clive’s board is generally supportive of efforts led by a local or local interest person while keeping community values ​​in mind.

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