Calgary, Alberta – Symbols can have a powerful impact on a community, especially when they are used to make others feel unwelcome or unsafe. We are investigating such a case after a Confederate flag was found flying on a public flagpole in Union Cemetery, located in the community of Erlton.
We were called around 7 p.m., on Tuesday, March 16, 2021, after we received multiple reports about the flag. When officers arrived, a concerned citizen had already removed the flag, but officers were able to locate it in a nearby garbage can.
We are now investigating the incident as a potential hate-motivated crime. While the possession and display of a Confederate flag is not in itself a crime, it is believed there was another flag on the flagpole that was removed so the offensive flag could be raised.
Canada has a very high legal threshold for what is considered hate speech in order to protect the Charter freedoms of thought, belief and expression.
Unless something communicated in public is likely to directly cause a breach of the peace, it is extremely rare for even the most offensive views to meet the legal threshold for criminal charges. In fact, the threshold is so high that charges can only be laid with the prior approval of the Attorney General of Canada.
However, it can be considered a hate-motivated offence if a crime is committed while prejudicial views are being expressed. While the value of the stolen item in this case was small, the statement made through the theft and flag raising that followed makes it a serious matter.
“There are often times where symbols make people in the community feel like they are being targeted for ill treatment or excluded from society,” said Acting Detective Craig Collins, Hate Crimes Coordinator with the Calgary Police Service. “While we can’t legally stop people from displaying these symbols, we can address it if people are committing crimes in the process.”
“Even if no crime has been committed, we still want this kind of thing to be reported so it can be recorded as a hate incident, both to acknowledge the impact on the community and allow us to monitor any patterns or trends,” added Det. Collins.
Hate-motivated crimes are recognizable crimes, like assault, theft, vandalism or any other crime, where the offender was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate that is based on one of nine personal characteristics of the victim.
Any evidence of a hate motivation is considered by the courts after a person is found guilty of the connected crime. If the judge decides during sentencing that hate was a motivation for the offence, it is an aggravating factor that can add to the convicted person’s sentence.
Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call the Calgary Police Service non-emergency number at 403-266-1234. Tips can also be submitted anonymously to Crime Stoppers through any of the following methods:
APP: “P3 Tips”
Calgary Police Service
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