The 11 hallmarks of hate messages

A recent determination by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal sets out a listing of hallmarks of hate. These provide insights into the assessment of defining hate speech in Canada.

An analysis of the growing body of s. 13 [of the Canadian Human Rights Code] jurisprudence reveals that there are a number of hallmarks of material that is more likely than not to expose members of the targeted group to hatred or contempt. It may be useful at this point to provide a list of these hallmarks

  1. The targeted group is portrayed as a powerful menace that is taking control of the major institutions in society and depriving others of their livelihoods, safety, freedom of speech and general well-being;
  2. The messages use “true stories”, news reports, pictures and references from purportedly reputable sources to make negative generalizations about the targeted group;
  3. The targeted group is portrayed as preying upon children, the aged, the vulnerable, etc.;
  4. The targeted group is blamed for the current problems in society and the world;
  5. The targeted group is portrayed as dangerous or violent by nature;
  6. The messages convey the idea that members of the targeted group are devoid of any
    redeeming qualities and are innately evil;
  7. The messages communicate the idea that nothing but the banishment, segregation or eradication of this group of people will save others from the harm being done by this group;
  8. The targeted group is de-humanized through comparisons to and associations with animals, vermin, excrement, and other noxious substances;
  9. Highly inflammatory and derogatory language is used in the messages to create a tone of extreme hatred and contempt;
  10. The messages trivialize or celebrate past persecution or tragedy involving members of the targeted group;
  11. Calls to take violent action against the targeted group.

All of these attributes involve an attack on the inherent self-worth and dignity of the members of the targeted group. As noted in the tribunal’s ruling, material that bears the hallmarks of a hate message disparages and ridicules other people “just for drawing breath, for living”.

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