Standing down the street from the office of what many call a hate-filled newspaper, Beaches-East York MPP Arthur Potts announced more funding on July 16 for police who investigate hate crimes.
Over the next two years, the Ontario government will spend $399,000 to maintain the Hate Crime and Extremism Investigative Team – a coordinated effort by 15 Ontario police agencies that includes the Toronto Police Service.
Another $50,000 will go to the Ontario Police College to train current and future officers on hate crimes and extremism.
Potts made the announcement on the steps of Community Centre 55.
Besides being a block away from the Main Street office of Your Ward News, a newspaper that Toronto police are monitoring for possible hate crimes, Potts noted that Centre 55 is the former police station where, in the 1930s, local church leaders met to counter an East End fascist group that was threatening local Jews.
“We come here today because in our community we have a long history – where there has been intolerance or racism – when this community had to rally against people who were delivering hate,” said Potts.
Standing alongside Potts was Superintendent Pat Dietrich of the Waterloo Regional Police, which coordinates Ontario’s HCEIT program, and Ashley Sametz, a HCEIT analyst.
Your Ward News has “certainly caught the attention” of Toronto’s hate-crimes unit, Dietrich said, but he added that under Canadian law, charging someone with the most serious hate crimes requires evidence of inciting violence.
“Sometimes as distasteful as some things can be, it doesn’t quite meet that threshold,” he said.
The most serious hate crimes offence in the Criminal Code is advocating genocide, followed by inciting violence based on bigotry. There is also a specific offence in Canada for wilfully promoting hatred and mischief against religious property.
But of the 1,167 hate crimes reported to Canadian police in 2013, the most recent year data are available, more than 90 per cent fell into a fourth category – other crimes that get a tougher sentence when motivated by hatred of an ethnic, religious, or other identifiable group.
A typical example, said Sametz, is hate-motivated graffiti.
Published by local music promoter LeRoy St. Germaine and edited by former Ward 32 council candidate James Sears, the July issue of Your Ward News advertises an “Anti-Marxist” book burning that warns participants not to bring any religious scripture, “no matter how tempting.”
Inside is a rant against Israeli Jews, a reference to the Talmud as “hateful anti-Gentile propaganda,” a defence of the Confederate battle flag, and an attack on Tim Hortons for blocking two “white nationalist” discussion boards on its WiFi network.
Potts has asked Canada Post to stop delivering copies of Your Ward News, which is sent as unsolicited mail to homes in the Beach and East York.
In reply, Canada Post said lawyers have found nothing illegal in the newspaper, adding that “we do not have the right to refuse a mail item because we or our employees object to its content.”
Potts said that while he supports freedom of expression, the issue of whether a Crown agency should deliver Your Ward News goes beyond its legality.
“I say, you need to have a higher standard,” he said, citing the recent example of a man who was fired from Hydro One for making sexist remarks to a TV reporter outside a soccer game.
“Why doesn’t Canada Post have the same kind of tolerance rule, a higher standard than strictly going to the legality of whether it’s hate speech or not?” he said.
“We don’t have to make a judgement about whether it’s illegal to know that it’s offensive.”