How To Build An Anti-Hate City

Our guide for municipal leaders in an environment of increasing hate crime and far-right activity.

Canadian Anti-Hate Network

Source: Unsplash

The far-right is an anti-democratic movement that harbours racism and other forms of hatred. We believe that to truly defeat it we need to address the inequalities and bleak outlook for the future that make its conspiracy theories, scapegoating, and easy answers to complex problems appealing to a growing segment of our society.

In the meantime, we believe in using every ethical and reasonable tool at our disposal to slow down the growth of the far-right movement to prevent it from chipping away at community safety, sense of belonging, and human rights.

First and foremost, we believe in building an anti-hate and pro-democracy movement that can counter far-right events and demonstrations and disrupt their messaging. We’ve seen time and time again that when they are outnumbered and reminded that their views are still unpopular with a majority of people that it demoralizes them and sets them back.

We are often asked about whether there are policy solutions, laws that could be changed, or things municipal leaders can do. Of course!

Here are our recommendations for municipal leaders.

Use your platform as mayors, councillors, and leaders to encourage people to join events, protests, and counter-protests that defend the human rights of identifiable groups from far-right agitators. 

Asking your constituents to come out to defend events like Pride is one of the most powerful things that you can do as a leader. Show up and grow your city’s anti-hate and pro-democracy movement. Not sure where to start? We have a guide for that.

You don’t have to wait for an inciting incident. Reach out and pledge your support for local efforts that protect equity-deserving groups.

Establish clear policies that city resources and venues may not be provided to an individual or organization where there is a reasonable concern that they will promote hate towards an identifiable group.

When the right to freedom of expression and freedom from discrimination are in conflict, cities have an obligation under administrative law and the Charter to weigh those rights in its decision making. The courts have decided that hate speech is “low value speech.” Therefore, the right to be free from discrimination supersedes any right they have to their hate speech.

It’s also important to recognize that hate speech is terrible for free expression because of the chilling effect it has on other people’s speech. It’s a barrier to people fully engaging in public life, especially members of equity deserving groups.

Cities should look at the organization and individuals past comments and actions, who they’ve invited to speak, and use the hallmarks of hate (which have been endorsed by the supreme court) as a basis to determine whether there is a reasonable concern and grounds to refuse to provide them with city resources and venues.

Divert funding from law enforcement into community-based programming.

Reporting hate crime to law enforcement (especially if a victim has to do it directly) can often be traumatizing and disappointing for the victim and their community. A report by the BC Human Rights Commission found that the victims of hate crime have better outcomes accessing community support than reporting to law enforcement. 

Recognize that unhoused and underhoused persons should have the same protections as other identifiable groups.

An identifiable group is currently defined as “any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion, national or ethnic origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, mental or physical disability.” When unhoused and underhoused persons are targeted for violence because of their housing status or because they are vulnerable, that’s a hate crime.

And be careful that your proposed solutions can’t be used against the very people they’re supposed to protect. 

In Calgary, a bylaw against hate-motivated street harassment was used against teenagers who were counter-protesting against anti-2SLGBTQI+ hate preachers. Community members had warned that something like this might happen, but their concerns weren’t heard. The charges were later dropped after advocacy and media attention.

You might also consider

  • Establishing a fund to provide counselling to victims of hate incidents and crime
  • Attending school-board meetings in your area to show you support them and students and youth against the anti-2SLGBTQI+ activists that have been disrupting public education
  • Joining campaigns that call on other governments to take action against hate, such as Momentum #Act4QueerSafety campaign

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