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Opinion | Feb 9, 2018

Speak Not, “Hate Speech”

A YOUNG UNIVERSITY graduate resident in Toronto was given a chase by Toronto Police for over speeding on one of the roads in the city.

When the police finally pulled him over, he was given a ticket for over speeding. After the police have asked him to go, he pulled a finger on the peace officer who gave him another ticket for insulting behaviour.

Two weeks after that incident, a New Yorker, who posted strong words on his face book wall, was found guilty by a law court which sentenced him to three years imprisonment.

What impression do these two scenarios create in your mind?

The impression is that the act of speaking insulting words or better still hates speeches in our schools, communities, and cities, provinces and at our work places has become so common that it calls for a strong collaborative effort to raise awareness to control it.

Yes some concerns have been raised about it. But it seems more people are not bothered about it as the insults keep flying every day in the air like scud missiles hitting their targets and creating tension in our communities, schools, work places and homes.

Politicians are speaking hate speeches, teachers re speaking it, lawyers are speaking it, religious leaders are speaking it, doctors are speaking it, students are speaking it and even ordinary men and women as parents are both old and young are chewing it like gum.

Thinking that the few cases that have made the headlines about those who spoke it and were punished will serve as deterrent to others, not the more we hear friend, colleague students, co-workers, supervisors in some working institutions as well as politicians continue to speak it and risk being trapped in the drag net of the law.

Because I am not yet a legal mogul, I will first define it outside law and then what the law says it is.

Hate speech is outside the law, communication that vilifies a person or group based on discrimination against that person or group. So using (S) word, (F) word on someone can be termed as hate speech.

Now let us look at what the law says. In law hate speech is any speech, gesture, or conduct, writing or display which is forbidden because it may incite violence or prejudicial action against or by a protected individual or group, or because it disposes or intimidates a protected individual or group.

The law may identify a protected individual by certain characters where in some countries a victim of hate speech may seek redress under the civil law, criminal law or both.

A website that uses hate speech is called a hate site. Most of these contain internet forums and news briefs that emphasize a particular viewpoint.

On August 6, 2013, The Toronto Sun newspaper reported that Toronto Police was investigating a hate speech, after a speaker of a controversial anti-Israeli rally said Jews must vacate that country or be shot dead.

According to the story, the center for Israel and Jews Affairs [CIJA], the group claiming to have complained to the police identified the speaker as Elias Hazineh who issued the hate speech at Queens Park in Toronto.

The event featured the speaker who in video footage insisted that Jews must leave Israel’s heartland or face death.

Whiles on the side of the New Yorker he posted a speech about his ex-girlfriend on the social media network face book.

It was found by another person who also hinted the ex-girlfriend that complained to the police and it resulted in the subsequent arrest, charge with hate speech and served a jail sentence.

In Canada, issuing a hate speech or insulting or better still advocating genocide or inciting hatred against any identifiable individual or group is an indictable offence under the criminal code of Canada with maximum prison terms of two or fourteen years.

An identifiable group is defined as any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.

One greatest achievement so far by the Police and the law courts is judicial control over religious leaders and individuals alike that makes hate speeches or insults that could cause chaos in this great country of ours.

But does that means that after the fines by the police, the courts and jail sentence served, the law enforcers have completed their work and anybody elsewhere can make any speech be it insulting or hateful and inciting and go scot free?

No, I want everyone to be reminded that the big brothers in the blue/black uniform are watching you closely to trap you in the law net.

As we continue to take bold steps in the year 2018 that the lord has ushered us in, my advice to avowed Ghanaians in Canada and beyond is found in the book of life Ephesians 4:31 which says and I quote, “Let all... Screaming and abusive speech be taken away from you.”

Ladies and gentlemen, words can become weapons producing devastating effects as another bible proverb says, “It is better to be living in a waste land than with a bitter tongued an angry woman or man emphasis my.” Proverbs 21:19.

And when it comes to senior and junior worker relationships, the bible says in Colossians 3:21 “Do not be exasperating your children and parents too, so that they do not become downhearted.”

Since most of us have formed workplace families, this statement is very important for all of us in order to accommodate each and every one as far as discharging our various duties are concern.

Readers, I want you to take it into this year that just as ocean waves can erode solid rock; a pattern of hurtful speech can also weaken a family just like what we have formed in our homes, schools, churches, workplaces and in our communities.

In conclusion, may the lord our God guide and counsel us, may he protect us and our families and make us prosperous this and the years ahead of us and bring our families we have lost custody of as a result of hate speech to continue what God has blessed us with which is prosperous families to contribute to the growth of our dear countries Canada and Ghana.

Stephen A. Quaye
Stephen A. Quaye, © 2018

This author has authored 304 publications on Modern Ghana.
Author column: StephenAQuaye

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