On Campus

Should attacking women be a hate crime?

UW female students feel unsafe on campus

Female students at the University of Waterloo say they no longer feel safe on campus, due to the actions of an anonymous person who uses Facebook, email and campus election posters to make hateful attacks on women. Student leaders are concerned that the women’s centre and the gay and lesbian support centre may become targets, and both centres have been closed until further notice.

During the Federation of Students elections last week, the attacker covered the posters of female candidates and sent out a mass e-mail, pretending to be the university president, which said “Expose the defective moral intelligence of womankind.”

Some students are fearful, worried that this person is likely somewhere on campus. One student, Jaelle McMillan, was quoted in the Record as saying:

“I feel so targeted right now that I made my stepfather walk me around campus when I had to hand something in. I definitely feel targeted as a female.”

One part of the story that surprised me is that attacking women is apparently not a hate crime. The article in the Record mentioned that many students and faculty are frustrated to hear that even if the attacker is caught, he or she can’t be charged with a hate crime (instead, they would be charged with crimes of mischief and impersonation). At a university-wide meeting that was held on Friday, the director of the University of Waterloo’s police force said that gender is not a category included in federal hate-crimes legislation- ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation are covered, but not gender.

According to an article on the CBC website, section 319 of the Criminal Code of Canada address hate crimes. It says: “Every one who, by communicating statements in any public place, incites hatred against any identifiable group where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace…”

Isn’t this the perfect example of a hate crime? A specific, identifiable group being targeted in a public place? Some people are arguing that these students are overreacting, however, if this fits the description of a hate crime as perfectly as it apparently does, why doesn’t it ‘count’ as a hate crime?

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