Transcription of CBC Radio interview - Hate Crime on the Internet.
CBC Radio - Almanac (12:05 pm.), March 23, 1998
Host to AG: You have called the current hate laws weak and obsolete, what kind of changes would you like to see?
AG: "Well, what we have currently is a law that has been rarely enforced and that is because it is unenforceable. Everyone knows there has been evidence of communication of hatred on the internet."
(At this point the interview was broken and then resumed
AG...".. it works on the same lines as we have with the issue of pornography. Mere possession of pornography on the internet can be an offense, is an offense. In fact we have successfully investigated and prosecuted those offenses in British Columbia. But mere possession of hate and hate propaganda is not an offense. You know, both issues are serious. Pornography is very, very serious but so is the questioning of one's humanity by other individuals in the country or the province. Some of the hate literature and hate propaganda questions the very essence of other human beings' humanity and I think that it is time that we began to look at this law, review it and possibly amend it so that we can successfully prosecute these matters."
Host: As you run up against the need to allow freedom of expression, where do YOU draw the line in your own mind?
AG: "Well, in my own mind, there are no absolute rights in this country. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms gives us the opportunity as a society to impose reasonable and demonstrably justified limits on all of those freedoms and I think the right to free speech is also very, very important and I would not want to prevent debate from happening on any issue but when it goes into, crosses the line and becomes hate propaganda and hate communication, that's where the line is. I mean, we have the right to exercise free speech but we have the obligation to exercise it with a degree of responsibility. And that degree of responsibility is not very properly and adequately defined in the current hate laws. That's why they're difficult to enforce."
Host: Do you sense any willingness on the part of federal ministers to consider this and review it?
AG: "I have not heard from anyone federally with the exception of Hedy Fry, the secretary of state for Multiculturalism. And she has agreed to meet with me in April, when I would make all of the research available that we have done through the hate crime team and the expertise that they have gathered, we'll put that at her disposal. And she has agreed to take a look at that, but this is a matter, this is obviously a matter of national interest. If we are to educate and do prevention on these issues, we will not be very effective unless at the end of the spectrum say anyone who refuses to participate in that agenda for change will be prosecuted because we have to as a society send a strong message."
Host: What message do you think the people of Oliver sent when they decided to basically pull the permit for the meeting or this forum as it was called.... what did you make of that response?
AG: "I think people in Oliver actually sent a message that all Canadians agree with and they basically said, yes you have the right to free speech but we will not give you a forum to do it. And I think it's important that hatred should not be allowed to flourish and the people of Oliver took a stand, I think British Columbians admire them and so do the rest of Canadians. And I think its an issue that goes across borders now, particularly with the onset of internet and we need to be very, very strong nationally so that we can continue to show leadership in the world."
Host: On Friday's program, Alan Dutton was with us and he argued that as the laws are written now there could have been prosecutions in the Klatt example. Why hasn't that happened under the existing laws?
AG: "Well, I, you know, Mr. Dutton, obviously is an activist on this issue but I have not been privy to any reports that have been made to me through the crown where prosecution has been recommended."
Host: "It's been alleged though, that there were death threats on this web site directed at journalists in Europe and a British playwright, I mean, isn't that evidence enough in itself.?
AG: "No, I appreciate that. Police do independent investigations, they make a report to the crown and in terms of the prosecutions on hate, I as the attorney general have to then sign them off. I have not yet been given the opportunity to do that at this point but I'm hoping that as the hate crime team continues to investigate this matter, we should be able at some point to successfully prosecute. The laws in France and Belgium and other parts of the world are different. Our laws are not the same."
Host: But if I was to send a threat to someone inside of this country, or outside of this country, print their address and their telephone number and encourage others to bomb them could I not be charged for that?
AG: "Death threat per se is an offense. Uttering a threat is an offense. And it is a serious offense."
Host: But the question is whether or not the carrier of that.....
AG: " But those are technical issues and it is difficult for me to argue those one way or the other based on the information that you and I have. Obviously, standing on its own, uttering a threat is an offense. How it is done, where it is done and from where it emanates and where it ends up .... all of those issues go into a successful prosecution and the police have to decide those issues in their own mind before they make a recommendation to the crown. I don't think it's appropriate for us to be discussing this particular case. But I am hoping that we will be able to one day, successfully prosecute these matters. As I said over the weekend many times, we have successfully now brought charges against many people that are before the courts. On prosecution of sexual exploitation of children, that's because the law was changed to a certain extent and we put together a prostitution unit in British Columbia with police and the Crown working together. We have put together a hate crime team, I'm saying to the federal government, give me better laws. We will enforce them."
Host: Mr. Dosanjh, thanks for your time today.
AG: " Thank you".
Ujjal Dosanjh is British Columbia's Attorney General.
March 23, 1998