The York community’s take on the NDP’s push to ban hate symbols

In light of the current eruptions and protests in Canada, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh announced on February 6 the NDP’s aim to ban hate symbols across the country. Bill C-229 will prohibit the “display or sale” of hate symbols such as the Klu Klux Klan insignia, the Nazi swastika and the Confederate flag. 

NDP Leader, Jagmeet Singh said “Displays of racism and anti-Semitism are vile, violent, and hateful. Recent events in Ottawa highlight the urgent need for action — to make sure hate is not normalized or tolerated in any way. Everyone has the right to feel welcomed and respected in our community.” 

Singh added that hate symbols such as swastikas and confederate flags “retraumatize people who have been targets of violence and oppression.”

“The promotion or celebration of violence and genocide has no place in Canada. If we come together and push the government to act, we can make sure hate is given no space to take hold and no air to breathe,” Singh continued.

Professor Allyson Lunny in the department of social science provides their analysis on the matter:

“A number of Western European countries legally ban the display of the Nazi swastika. For example, Germany outlaws the production and distribution of Nazi materials, as well as their public display. Here, in Canada, a Nova Scotian court recognized the public display of a burning cross as a communication of racial incitement contrary to s. 319(1)(a) of the Criminal Code citing the Klu Klux Klan’s weaponization of the burning cross as a hateful racist symbol of intimidation and threat.

The private member’s bill is a response to the recent public display of historically recognized symbols of ‘hate and terror’ at the convoy protest in Ottawa and elsewhere. Symbols, emblems, flags, and uniforms of Nazi Germany, and of the Confederate South and its postbellum offshoot (the KKK), have a clear historical and political lineage to regimes of atrocity and extreme hatred.  

The display of such symbols is an act of public communication that celebrates such regimes and ideologies of hate and atrocity and may have the effect of emboldening others to act in accordance with these extreme ideologies of hate, anti-Semitism and white supremacy.

As with current Canadian hate propaganda law (‘hate speech’ law), the bill provides numerous elements to protect the expression of speech, including needing the consent of the Attorney General to move forward with a charge and having several built-in defences to the right of free expression such as ‘good faith clauses’ and recognition of public interest and education.”

Assistant Professor Natasha Tusikov also hopes for this matter to have positive social consequences, saying they hope that C-229 would kickstart a broader public debate on reasonable limits of speech. 

“We often begin with a framing of free speech versus government censorship, especially in the online environment, but all speech is regulated. The distribution of child sexual abuse images is prohibited, as is incitement to violence.” Tusikov goes on to add that there are “markedly different political norms” when considering acceptable speech regulation between countries, citing the US and Canada as an example. 

Second-year criminology student Sabrina Lombardo shares her perspective as a student. “The NDP’s push to ban hate symbols is definitely a step in the right direction. Racialized individuals deserve to feel safe in a place where they are supposed to call home.”

Lombardo says that hate speech and symbols “only push the western ideal of an assimilated white world. By making these symbols a criminal offence, it gives the opportunity for these symbols to slowly be eliminated from portrayal. These symbols; although a part of history, have no place in the streets and in our environment.”

Though merely a private member’s bill, one should not underestimate the power of change and the domino effect of it all. 

About the Author

By Jannat Yaqobi

Former Editor

Jannat is a first year Criminology student at York. Along with being part of Excalibur, she is also part of the Criminology Society, SCOLAPS, and the YFS. She has a passion for reading, writing (particularly spoken word and slam), photography, and watching classic and vintage movies. Apart from juggling her busy (and at times hectic) schedule, one can occasionally find Jannat journaling, graphic designing, or watching Golden Girls with her mom or Friends with a cup of black tea.


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