June 24, 2024


Specialists in home interior

Confederate flag outside Hamilton home raises questions around local hate-symbol laws – Hamilton

Warning: This story contains graphic content that may be disturbing to some viewers. Discretion is advised.

A Hamilton-area nurse says a Confederate flag she’s seen numerous times waving in the Binbrook neighbourhood where she resides continues to “strike fear” into her heart.

Amie Archibald-Varley said she’s seen the symbol – commonly tied to white supremacy and racism in the United States –  a number of times on a front porch since late January.

On Sunday, she captured the flag in a social media post which has, in turn, caught the attention of many in the city.

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She says an initial post in January also caught people’s attention, having been retweeted thousands of times with some suggesting she may have made it up.

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“I got a lot of backlash of people saying that, no, I didn’t see it,” remarked Archibald-Varley.

“Why would I just put a blanket statement out without any proof?”

Global News confirmed the flag’s existence in a recent trip to the residence and reached out to those living in the home about why they were flying the flag.

The occupiers declined to comment.

Hamilton police (HPS) say they are aware of the banner and said there was little they could do, since it’s on private property and does not contravene any part of Canada’s Criminal Code.

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“Unfortunately, there is currently no legislation that would provide police with the grounds to lay charges or compel the homeowner to take down the flag,” spokesperson Jackie Penman told Global News.

A 2020 city staff report, which targeted such symbols in a hate-prevention “action plan,” revealed the city does not have jurisdiction to take action on private property displays unless an expression falls under section 319 of the Criminal Code and is being used to promote or incite hatred or violence against an identifiable group.

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The city did amend a bylaw (10-197) in mid-August of 2020 that prohibits expressions and symbols associated with hate, profanity or obscenity – as defined by Ontario’s Human Rights Code –  from all city-owned lands.

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That change allows for the removal, with or without notice, of any sign or decoration determined to be for an unlawful activity associated with hate on city property.

The move was partly motivated by a 2018 crime report from Statistics Canada which revealed Hamilton had the highest rate of police-reported hate crimes in the country.

According to the data, 97 hate incidents were reported to Hamilton police in 2018 which equated to 17.1 hate crimes reported for every 100,000 people in the city.

That was more than three times the national average of 4.9 per 100,000 people out of a total 1,798 police-reported hate crimes in 2018.

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Archibald-Varley says seeing the flag has mobilized her to bring more attention to the issue of hate symbols and has reached out to the Canadian Anti-Hate Network Speaker, Hamilton Anti Racism Center, and Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion (HCCI) suggesting a bylaw should be extended to public property.

“My question is … if it’s against the law in a public dwelling … why would it matter whether it’s on a public building versus a private dwelling?” she said.

The HCCI responded in complete agreement through a social media post on Monday.

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“Confederate flags should not be flying anywhere,” the HCCI said in a Tweet.

In a social media post of his own, Mayor Fred Eisenberger said the Confederate flag was ” not welcome” and that he would look at more political action to ban such symbols.

“I will move another motion in Council to request that the federal and provincial governments act swiftly to take action to ban symbols like this, as we should not have this flag and other racist and hateful flags flying in our communities,’ Eisenberger said.

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Archibald-Varley says she’s hoping to put together an “awareness walk” in the near future alongside residents similarly against symbols of hate and with a few local advocacy groups.

“People who are in support, they can come out with us on this community walk and hope that the individual will take the flag down,” she said.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.