An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
BANNING HATE SYMBOLS is a tricky business.
The federal NDP is proposing amendments to the Criminal Code to include the banning of the Nazi swastika, U.S. Confederate flag and Ku Klux Klan symbols from public display. A private member’s bill sponsored by New Westminster MP Peter Julian and supported by his fellow New Democrats is inspired by the display of such symbols at the truckers’ convoy in Ottawa.
Violators could receive up to two years in prison.
“Hate is very much like a fire,” said Julian. “Once it’s allowed to take hold, it spreads and it starts consuming everything.”
The proposal is certainly timely, since swastikas and such have drawn such widespread condemnation in connection with the convoy.
Private member’s bills don’t usually get very far but, given the response to the less attractive features of the convoy by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, it’s likely this one will find support from the governing party.
Already, however, doubts are being expressed about enforcement. How could authorities possibly keep on top of it? Where will it end? And whatever happened to freedom of speech?
It’s not rocket science. The law will need to be specific, of course. A list of the banned symbols will have to be kept. Enforcement would best be done on a complaints basis — if a banned flag, uniform or any such material shows up at a rally, a bar, a rock concert, a festival, a mall or any similar gathering place, call the cops.
As for freedom of speech, that’s always an issue that must be addressed but we already have laws against hate speech. We aren’t free to express or incite hatred against others. Symbols associated with such things as the Holocaust, slavery and racism are a form of hate speech and don’t deserve protection.
Two of the three symbols on the short list are American. It’s a sad day when our newest import from the United States is their symbols of hate. Give the bill speedy passage.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.