Dealing with hate at Canadian universities
By Joshua Budd
Western students met with hate crime experts from the Canadian Jewish Congress and the London Police Force yesterday to talk about the problem of racism and anti-semitism on Canadian university campuses.
Gabe Meranda, director of the Jewish Students' Union, said the union decided to invite people to speak about anti-semitism on campus after students found three stickers with swastikas and the words "Stop non-white immigration," posted around campus this winter.
Meranda said the stickers are not the only problem. Swastikas found in Weldon library and a recent bomb scare at the London Jewish Community Centre added to the necessity of addressing the problem of hate on campus.
Emmet Lecompte, a detective for the criminal investigation division of the London Police Force, started the discussion in the Social Science Centre by describing the mandate of London's hate crime unit of which he is a member along with three other detectives.
"We want to show the community that police won't tolerate victimization of innocent people," Lecompte said. "Our response is quick. We drop what we're doing to help the victim."
Lecompte turned the podium over to Steven Shulman, national associate director of community relations for the Canadian Jewish Congress.
Shulman talked about the many different manifestations of racism and anti-semitism appearing on university campuses today.
He pointed to Holocaust denial as a particularly blatant form of anti-semitism despite the efforts of deniers to defend their beliefs as an academic movement.
"The people most involved in Holocaust denial are tied with other hate groups," Shulman explained, "Holocaust denial is used as a thesis that helps to promote their hate movement."
Shulman said he has observed a lot of activities on campus such as the distribution of hate propaganda and pamphleteering and said demographics show hate groups are starting to target a younger audience.
In the '80s, the majority of people who belonged to hate groups were aged 55 to 65. Today most members of extremist groups are in the 18 to 25 age group, Shulman explained.
He said the Canadian legal system defines two different kinds of hate crime a substantive crime motivated by hate and the promotion of hatred through propaganda.
Under Bill C-41, hate as a motivation for a crime can be used as an aggravating factor when a judge decides on a punishment.
Shulman said Section 319 of the criminal code, which makes it an offence to wilfully promote hatred against an identifiable group, has been upheld by the Supreme Court.
He concluded by saying if one group is targeted, no matter what group, it is a problem for all people.