OTTAWA — Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux has bowed to pressure and scrapped plans to table a petition to give police officers protection under hate speech laws.

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OTTAWA — Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux has bowed to pressure and scrapped plans to table a petition to give police officers protection under hate speech laws.

"This has been a learning experience for me," the Winnipeg North MP wrote in an email. "I will not be tabling this petition, now that I have come to fully understand its contents."

Winnipeg MP Kevin Lamoureux: “This has been a learning experience for me."

THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES/JUSTIN TANG

Winnipeg MP Kevin Lamoureux: “This has been a learning experience for me."

This month, a retired Winnipeg police inspector wrote a petition, asking Parliament to broaden hate speech laws to include vocations, in particular police officers.

Stan Tataryn had argued police who are cleared of any criminal charges should not be called "murderers" for shooting people dead in heated incidents.

It is the kind of language, he said, heard at protests related to the death of Eishia Hudson, a 16-year-old Indigenous who girl was fatally shot by a Winnipeg officer.

That April 2020 shooting on Lagimodiere Boulevard during afternoon rush hour followed a high-speed chase and liquor store robbery.

Police watchdog Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba cleared the officer of any wrongdoing in January.

Holocaust controversy unintended: ex-cop

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Former WPS inspector Stan Tataryn.</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Former WPS inspector Stan Tataryn.

OTTAWA — Stan Tataryn, the former Winnipeg inspector who launched a petition to include police officers in hate speech laws, says he regrets controversy over referencing a Holocaust denier.

The petition's text had cited the James Keegstra case, in which the Supreme Court defined the line between hate and free speech.

Some in Winnipeg's Jewish community felt it was offensive to reference that case, given the gravity of the Holocaust.

OTTAWA — Stan Tataryn, the former Winnipeg inspector who launched a petition to include police officers in hate speech laws, says he regrets controversy over referencing a Holocaust denier.

The petition's text had cited the James Keegstra case, in which the Supreme Court defined the line between hate and free speech.

Some in Winnipeg's Jewish community felt it was offensive to reference that case, given the gravity of the Holocaust.

Tataryn said Tuesday he was not trying to draw a comparison, and only intended to point to the definition, to clarify free speech needs to be upheld.

“Calling policemen 'bastards' doesn’t qualify as hate; what I wanted was the same definition used (for other) listed groups,” said Tataryn, who volunteers with the federal Liberal party.

“I'm hardly a right-wing activist.”

— Dylan Robertson

Tataryn’s petition was published online in April, just as a former Minneapolis police officer went on trial for the death of George Floyd in May 2020. (On Tuesday, a jury found Derek Chauvin guilty on all three counts in the homicide.)

The petition prompted a swift backlash from residents of Point Douglas and the North End, which fall inside Lamoureux’s constituency.

MPs often endorse petitions from the public, including ones they don’t agree with. Many MPs argue almost anything that can reach the House of Commons threshold of 500 online signatures is worth bringing to the government for a response.

However, Lamoureux told the Free Press last week he endorsed the views of the petition.

He said it was important everyone be covered by the Criminal Code, which makes it an offence to publicly communicate a statement that "incites hatred against any identifiable group, where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace" or "wilfully promotes hatred against any identifiable group," such as race, religion or sexual orientation.

Lamoureux has since walked back that view, and said he will not table the petition in the Commons. It had garnered 716 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon.

“In the future, I will review these requests carefully, and I will not authorize any petition which I do not fully agree with." — Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux

"In the future, I will review these requests carefully, and I will not authorize any petition which I do not fully agree with," the MP wrote.

Tataryn, who has helped Lamoureux campaign as former Manitoba head of the federal Liberal party, was disappointed.

"We’re being stifled, I guess, due to the protests, by the very ones I said were the ones communicating hatred," said Tataryn, who said the horrors in the United States do not reflect the reality in Canada.

In February, a Winnipeg constable took his own life, and his family said it was in part over distress caused by anti-police protests and sentiment.

Tataryn had previously argued the heated debate over the role of police in society is reaching a point where officers are losing their respect and moral authority, and thus will have to reach for their weapon to keep situations from escalating.

The grassroots group Winnipeg Police Cause Harm argues this thinking reveals a tendency to prioritize police control over public safety.

Bronwyn Dobchuk-Land, a University of Winnipeg criminology professor, says the tools and training given to officers creates that mindset.

"Police (have an) inability to distinguish situations that are dangerous from situations of non-compliance," she said.

Dobchuk-Land argued the uproar around the petition will probably steer people away from the view that communities should partner with police, instead of coming up with their own ways of maintaining safety.

"It probably helped people clarify… just how obsessed with authority the police are, and just how dangerous that is for our rights and our safety."

dylan.robertson@freepress.mb.ca