The Problem with "Hate Crimes" in a Liberal Calgary Society

(403) 452-8018

The Problem with "Hate Crimes" in a Liberal Calgary Society

As reported in the Calgary Sun, a man wearing a Confederate flag—the flag of the South in the US Civil War and often interpreted today as a symbol of white supremacy and therefore racism—disrupted an all-candidates forum at the Tuscany Club earlier this month.

The candidates were set to debate in Calgary Rocky Ridge on a Thursday night when the man entered, the Confederate flag obscuring his face, and claimed he was there to make a political statement when the Club's staff approached him. The flag was his way of protesting the niqab issue, though what exactly he was protesting is not entirely clear.

He was arrested later that night while sitting in his car outside the event, and there is a possibility that he will face hate crime charges.

I do not defend or condone this man's actions as respectful or appropriate; the connotations carried by his choice of attire are indicative of attitudes I outright reject, and disrupting a public forum has a tendency to limit free expression more than to encourage it (one man might get more of an opportunity to express himself, but that comes at the expense of multiple other voices).

Yet that being the case, I do not believe he should face "hate crime" charges for expressing his point of view, however misguided that point of view and his mode of expression are.

We need a society that is not afraid of confronting controversy, and that does not try to legislate and incarcerate away differences of opinion, however extreme. I hope the officials involved in this case approach it with rational minds rather than inflamed passions.