[lg policy] London risks legal firefight over hate ban, expert warns
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Sat Sep 30 10:38:03 EDT 2017
London risks legal firefight over hate ban, expert warns
By Megan Stacey <http://www.lfpress.com/author/megan-stacey>, The London
Friday, September 29, 2017 8:59:26 EDT PM
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London council’s push for a policy barring hateful groups from city-owned
spaces would have “no chance” of surviving a constitutional challenge, one
political expert said, and it may also paint London into a corner when it
comes to controversial musicians.
Inspired by an “anti-hate” motion to denounce an anti-Islam rally outside
city hall last month, politicians asked staff to report back on a bylaw
that would prohibit organizations “whose ideologies are contrary to the
City of London” from using city-owned spaces.
That raises questions about city concert venues such as Centennial Hall and
Budweiser Gardens. Would the policy exclude rappers who use offensive
language? How about pop stars who push the envelope with their lyrics?
And how might the bylaw reflect on London’s efforts to establish itself as
a “music city” and bid for the 2019 Junos?
Emmett Macfarlane, a University of Waterloo professor who studies rights,
governance and public policy, said the city should tread carefully as it
crafts this policy.
“A lot of bands have political messaging. A lot of rock groups, rap groups
might even employ racial language,” he said. “The idea that a bylaw could
inhibit that type of political or artistic expression would be a legitimate
And except in very rare cases, the city doesn’t have the right to shut down
performers or protesters, Macfarlane added.
“Even in the case of racist, offensive speech . . . the threshold for
prohibiting that speech or for any state sanction on that speech is
actually a very high one.”
Clark Bryan, who runs Aeolian Hall, said freedom of expression is a tough
topic to tackle when it comes to musical performers.
“I do think there’s a line,” he said. “As a gay man, if there’s a religious
group that thinks I should burn in hell . . . what are my obligations to
The Aeolian has turned away performers before, Bryan said, like Remigio
Pereira, a former member of The Tenors who changed the words to the
national anthem to include “all lives matter.”
Bryan argues Londoners have elected politicians to navigate some of these
decisions on their behalf. “It’s messy,” he admitted.
Coun. Tanya Park, who suggested the amendment to council’s anti-hate
stance, wasn’t available for comment on Friday.
But she told *The Free Press *Monday she’s still eager to see a strong
policy: “Any time we have groups that are promoting hate in the community,
I think it’s incumbent on leaders in the community to stand up against that
Macfarlane argues any bylaw using language similar to the council motion
wouldn’t withstand a constitutional challenge.
“(It) would, in my view, fall clearly offside with the Charter of Rights
and freedom of expression guarantees,” he said.
“It’s not to say that there are no limits whatsoever that can be placed on
expression, but if you have such broad and vague and ambiguous language,
you’re going to run into serious trouble, I think.”
Bryan and Macfarlane both raised the issue of who would make the decisions
about what’s appropriate for city spaces
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