The judge has overruled the jury’s find that it was hate crime
Handing out anti-gay flyers at Toronto Pride was reprehensible, but not a hate crime, judge rules
A judge has thrown out a hate crime charge against the protester who handed out flyers to Toronto Pride attendees arguing that the flyer is not hateful in itself.
Judge Heather Perkins-McVey ruled on Monday that the distribution of the flyers is not a hate crime, and dismissed the charge against 45-year-old Rene Charlebois. Charlebois was charged in April of this year.
This case is important because Canada has many laws protecting against hate crimes, but because hate propaganda is not considered one of them, it has rarely been prosecuted in Canada.
The flyer distributed to the Toronto Pride community this past July contained homophobic anti-gay rhetoric.
The flyers talked about a “gang battle”, and singled out various people as if they were members of the group. The flyer labelled one individual the “hate head”, another a “bandit”, a third the “homosexual leader”, and a fourth “liar”.
The flyer also explained how gays seek to destroy the family unit – which, we can all agree, isn’t a real harm to the nation.
It also equated homosexuality with paedophilia and bestiality – and warned that Toronto Pride was trying to give homosexuals the same rights as heterosexuals.
Had Charlebois been convicted of one of those three offences, he would have faced up to five years in prison.
Had Charlebois been convicted of the third offence, which engaged in conduct that was “likely to expose the complainant to hatred”, he could have faced up to ten years in prison. Had he been convicted of the second offence, his punishment could have increased as high as life imprisonment.
“While the tactics used in the distribution of the flyers may seem hateful, they are in fact not,” Judge Perkins-McVey ruled.
“A hateful flyer does not mean that what is contained therein is hateful, the idea that a reasonable person would be offended by [the flyer] is much less powerful than how [the flyer] is perceived.
“[Hate propaganda] is not categorically and irredeemably beyond the pale – it is constitutionally protected.”
Although the flyer may not be hateful, the judge recognized that language alone cannot be enough to make it a hate crime. Instead, the offence must come from “the incitement, by words and/or writing, to hatred or contempt” of a person, or a group.
“It seems to me that more must be going on [than just a verse] that incites hatred and contempt,” she said.
The judge said it appears that some involved in the distribution of the flyer “planned the distribution [of the flyers] in advance”.
“It would seem to me that there was a plan and this wasn’t something that they came up with when they were on their way to the parade,” she said.
After the ruling, there was a round of applause and the judge shouted, “Woo hoo!”
The decision marks the end of what was the first hate crime prosecution under the Hate Crimes Act in Canada.
In an interview following the ruling, Charlebois said he doesn’t feel too well.
“I’m feeling tired, but it’s time to do something positive,” he said.
Charlebois had 10 supporters at the courthouse following the ruling and none were permitted to speak to the media.
The decision to drop the hate crime charge came as a surprise.
On Monday morning, Charlebois sat back in his chair and listened as Perkins-McVey concluded that the distribution of the flyers was not a hate crime.
“The mere fact that the flyers state hateful things, that does not necessarily make them hate propaganda,” said Perkins-McVey.