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This article was published 16/8/2017 (1784 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
NDP leadership candidate Steve Ashton promised Wednesday to bring in a bill making it illegal to utter a racist or homophobic slur in public anywhere in Manitoba.
"We saw that terrible murder" in Virginia Saturday when white supremacists and neo-Nazis attacked anti-racist protesters, Ashton told reporters outside the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
"It's a growing threat to our social fabric in this country. We have to stand up against fascism and Nazism," he said.
"It's still not illegal for people to make racist or homophobic slurs against people in public. We'll actually make it an offence for people to make racist slurs."
But University of Manitoba law professor Karen Busby said provinces don't have any jurisdiction to create the type of law Ashton promised, and it wouldn't stand up to a Charter of Rights challenge.
The existing anti-hate law is federal under the Criminal Code of Canada, and is very specific, Busby said.
"It's only for the most heinous of speech, to violate the Charter of Rights. It's about inciting hatred in public," she said.
The Supreme Court has already ruled that racist language is not in and of itself a violation, Busby said.
"No attorney general in Manitoba has ever authorized charges under the Criminal Code of Canada. No politician wants to give people a platform to spew their hatred," Busby said.
Ashton insisted the province would have the power to do what he wants.
"This isn't about freedom of speech," he said.
The legislation would enable police to investigate and lay charges, which on conviction would bring fines, Ashton said.
"We can work on the actual fines afterward," he said.
It's possible to define in legislation about exactly what is been outlawed without listing all the illegal racist words within the legislation, Ashton said.
"The courts can interpret it the way it's intended," he said.
Ashton said he first raised the potential bill in 2009 when the NDP had a government majority, but caucus believed existing legislation was sufficient.
He would table the new bill when he becomes premier in 2020, but could also have a New Democrat MLA table a private member's bill this fall if he becomes leader, he said.
Ashton faces MLA Wab Kinew at the NDP leadership convention Sept. 16.