Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Charges won't be laid for poster

Decision disappoints human rights lawyer

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A prominent human rights lawyer says he is disappointed that hate-crime charges will not be brought against the author of a poster that surfaced in the downtown area in the fall.

David Matas said in his opinion, the poster is clearly a hate crime, adding the decision not to lay charges is just another example of the failure of the law.

"This refusal to prosecute shows the unworkability of the present Criminal Code," Matas, also senior counsel to B'nai Brith, said. "It seems pretty obvious and straightforward to me that there is an offence (of hate crime) committed.

"I'm disappointed. It's a clear-cut case."

Winnipeg police announced late Friday afternoon the Crown attorney's office advised them the poster does not meet the criteria for a hate crime.

The September poster made allegations of criminal wrongdoing against Mayor Sam Katz and several local business people -- all but one of whom are Jewish.

Matas said two more versions of the same poster have surfaced, most recently earlier this week. Katz and the other individuals are named in the latest poster, which calls for a code of conduct and ethics to be imposed on civic politicians and other officials at city hall.

Matas said he doesn't blame the police for refusing to act, adding that unlike other Criminal Code offences, hate-crime charges require the consent of the attorney general.

Matas said when police refuse to lay charges for other offences, individuals can always file a private prosecution, adding, however, that is not an option for hate crimes.

He said when governments refuse to prosecute hate crime, complaints could be filed under the Canadian Human Rights Act, but he added that option is also being eliminated by the Harper government.

"If the law doesn't work, it becomes a licence and (hate crimes) continue to proliferate," Matas said, adding he will bring the two later versions of the posters to police as further proof of hate crimes.

The man who claimed responsibility for the posters said last week police had not been in contact with him.

The Free Press has chosen not to identify him.

The man later acknowledged he chose "to shock and incense the entire Jewish community with vulgar, Holocaustic double entendre."

"Police have not made any attempts to contact me regarding any posters. Why would they?... These posters did not violate any hate-crime laws," he said in an email to the Free Press.

Individuals can be charged for hate crimes under Canada's federal Criminal Code, under sections that outlaw advocating genocide and public incitement of hatred. A Manitoba Justice spokesman said there's been no hate-crime charges from 2010 to 2012.

There is another section of the Code that states if someone is convicted of an offence and is sentenced, the court should consider "evidence that the offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability (or) sexual orientation."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 22, 2012 A10

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