Feel good about your information and become a local news champion today

Legal definitions influence Calgary’s ability to deal with protests ‘rooted in hatred’

On the cusp of another potential anti-drag protest, Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek asked this week if the city had the ability to shut them down if the gatherings were rooted in hate.  

Last weekend, a few dozen anti-drag protesters gathered outside The Rec Room in Calgary’s northeast. They were met by dozens more counter-protesters.

The show continued despite the presence of protesters, with Calgary police maintaining a barrier between both sides.

In Tuesday’s public hearing meeting of council, Mayor Gondek asked city admin what could be done to stop the protests.

“Unfortunately, some members of our population thought it’d be a good idea to protest this event, which is—I’m just going to use my opinion—a horrible thing to do,” she said.

“I was very happy that CPS was there to provide a buffer and to ensure that everyone was safe and that the show could go on.

“My question is: Do we have the ability, when a protest is rooted in hatred, to ticket people and shut this down? How does it work?”

Community Services GM Katie Black said she imagined there would be some complexity in defining what happened at the protests. Black said she’d get back to the mayor and council once they had an answer to the question.

The Calgary police, in a response to questions from LiveWire Calgary, said they recognize the Charter rights of everyone to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. They said they work with both sides to ensure public and officer safety.

If a protest takes place on private property, CPS said the owner or their agent and can ask the parties to leave. If they refuse, they can trespass them and ask for police to assist.

According to online postings, there’s at least one anti-drag protests in Calgary planned for this weekend. Other anti-government anti-mandate protests are also planned.

‘When a line is crossed’: Mayor Gondek

Later the same afternoon, when speaking with the media, Mayor Gondek said she believes there were hateful things said during last week’s protest.

“It’s considered hate speech to speak out against LGBTQ2S+ people as well as speaking out against anyone who’s queer and indicating that they are somehow flawed members of society,” she said.

“If that’s hate speech, which I think it is, why are you allowed to have a protest rooted in hate speech?”

The mayor said she wasn’t sure if it should be the CPS, city bylaw or the Crown prosecutors.

“I’m not really sure, but when the line is crossed between freedom of speech and expressing an opinion on something, and actually name-calling people based on hate, that’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed.”

Several requests were made to members of both the UCalgary and UAlberta law faculties. No one would provide comment on the story.

According to the CPS, the criminal code differentiates between a hate crime and a hate incident. There’s information on the Calgary police website, but the Edmonton Police Service website actually spells it out clearer. (BELOW)

This description of hate-motivated crime and hate incident is from the Edmonton Police Service website.

(This link to the Library of Parliament also provides a contextual look at these situations.)

CPS said they review each event. If criminal allegations are made or noted, they will investigate to determine if it’s a hate crime or hate incident.  They said, as they have before, it’s not always prudent to lay the charges at the time of the offence when emotions are high.

“In many instances, charges are laid in the hours or days after an infraction based on evidence obtained at the time of the event,” read a statement.

The City of Calgary has been asked if they’ve provided a response to the mayor and council, and what it entails. We have not yet had a response to those questions. The story will be updated when a response is received.

Hate crimes can be reported to the Calgary police at hatecrime@calgarypolice.ca. They can also be reported to the Alberta Human Rights Commission through their confidential inquiry line at 403-297-6571, or to the Alberta Hate Crime Committee at #STOPHATEAB website.