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Oct 18 2010

Update: Nova Scotia cross burning conviction

Not much to say on this story, just thought I’d be remiss if I didn’t report it:

A Nova Scotia man has pleaded guilty to criminal harassment after an interracial couple awoke to a burning cross in their yard earlier this year. But Justin Rehberg continues to fight a charge of public incitement of hatred. Rehberg appeared briefly in a Windsor, N.S., courtroom on Monday. Two charges of mischief and uttering threats were withdrawn as his trial began.The judge adjourned the case until Nov. 5.

Rehberg was charged after the Feb. 21 cross-burning incident in Poplar Grove, a rural community in Hants County. Michelle Lyon and her partner, Shayne Howe, said they awoke to find a two-metre-tall cross with a noose on it on their lawn. They also said someone yelled a racial slur at them. Lyon and Howe, the only black person in the community, considered moving because they feared for the safety of their children, who range in age from two to 17. But they said they changed their minds after the community rallied around them.

Nathan Rehberg, Justin’s brother, is charged with criminal harassment, public incitement of hatred, mischief and uttering threats. His trial is set to start on Nov. 10.

Legal justice has been done. Good work.

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4 comments

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  1. 1
    Ian

    Do you think the incitement of hatred is a legitimate charge or is harassment a stiff enough crime for this situation?

  2. 2
    Crommunist

    I don’t know the particulars of what the “incitement of hatred” charge involves, but the crime certainly is not mere harassment. It was a public demonstration that advocates violence against a particular people or group of people, not simply repeated and unwanted accosting.

  3. 3
    Ian

    I agree. While I hear too often that hatred charges are just attempts to squash free speech (which to some apparently includes the right to burn crosses across the street from black citizens), I think the point of it being a separate criminal offence is important.

    I do realize that this is suggesting that some morality should be enshrined in law, which is what got us in trouble with Christian morality, but if we have agreed via the Charter that freedom from persecution is a basic human right, then people who promote intolerance are violating the Charter.

  4. 4
    Crommunist

    Well there’s a distinction that must be drawn between hatred and hate speech. If I am violent toward, or advocate violence towards a person based on some characteristic they have, that isn’t free speech. However, if I criticize or draw attention to things that I think are wrong or harmful about that characteristic, that is free speech. Enforcing hate speech laws tends to become nothing more than state protection of a popular group. As someone who feels strongly about religion, it would be a relatively simple shift to say that criticism of religion is “hate speech”. I would most assuredly be locked up.

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