A Canadian expert says that while the vandalism that targeted three Winnipeg buildings on Wednesday was an expression of extreme anger, it wasn’t a hate crime.
“What was being expressed in those graffiti attacks was really angry political speech. But it’s not what our criminal code would treat as hate speech,” James Turk, director for the Centre for Free Expression out of Ryerson University, told 680 CJOB.
Vandals spray-painted graffiti on at least three buildings Wednesday, including the RCMP D Division headquarters on Portage Avenue, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and MP Dan Vandal’s office.
They also tagged the RCMP monument to fallen Mounties outside of the headquarters, with the words “F*** RCMP” scrawled on it.
The messages would not fall under the hate crime category because it’s not against an identifiable group, said Turk.
“By identifiable group, they mean on the basis of national origin, ethnic background, religion, creed, gender and so forth,” said Turk.
“The origin of hate speech law is how to deal with the demonization of people because of characteristics over which they have no control … so hate speech laws are focused on groups of people who, because of their characteristics, are demonized or described as less than human or otherwise discriminated against in a hateful way.”
That doesn’t mean, however, that there was no crime committed, he added.
“Any expression that’s violent or threatens violence is illegal. It’s not protected by our freedom of expression rights in Canada. So whether it’s hateful or not, if it’s expressing violence or threats of violence, then it is illegal.”
Nationwide rail and road blockades have been popping up for weeks as a show of support for the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en Nation in northwestern B.C., who oppose a natural gas pipeline project cutting across their traditional territory.
Winnipeg police Const. Rob Carver told 680 CJOB on Wednesday that the force was looking into the graffiti.
“We’re investigating them as linked,” said Carver, adding that the vandalism speaks to the level of passion and emotion people have about the protests across the country.
However, he said, it’s unfortunate that people are vandalizing public property.
“I get that people are upset but I’m unsure how this action gets anyone’s message across.”