RICHMOND (NEWS 1130) — The woman caught on video hurling racial slurs and swearing at an Asian woman in a Richmond parking lot is unlikely to be charged with a hate crime, according to a criminal lawyer.
The RCMP announced Saturday that it is investigating the incident and has contacted both women. By Saturday evening,over 3,500 comments had been posted to a Facebook page believed to belong to the woman caught on video.
Many of these call for the woman to be charged with a hate crime, sparking some debate over what crime the woman could be charged with at the conclusion of the police investigation.
The first thing to understand, according to Vancouver lawyer Kyla Lee, is that uttering racial slurs is not a crime in and of itself.
“The reality is that many disturbing situations like this, while completely upsetting, completely unacceptable, reprehensible behaviour, don’t fall within the boundaries of the Criminal Code,” she says. “To charge somebody with a criminal offense often requires more than just hateful language which is, I think, a very upsetting thing for a lot of people.”
Lee says in these circumstances, the criminal charge the woman could face is causing a disturbance. Hate-related charges could then be added on.
“In order for the police to charge somebody with a hate crime they have to first determine that a crime has been committed, and then that the motivation for that crime was one of hate on the basis of race, or sexual orientation or any factor like that,” she explains. “In a case like this, if this individual was charged with causing a disturbance, it could be characterized as a hate crime on the basis of the fact that clearly this was a racially motivated tirade by this individual.”
However, Lee says these charges are most often applied to situations that involve physical violence and vandalism.
“The likelihood is, though, that hate crime charges would not be pursued in these circumstances,” she adds.
Another possibility the RCMP may be pursuing is charges under the Motor Vehicle Act because the video clearly shows contact between two cars.
Councillor ‘appalled’ by racist rant
A Richmond city councillor says the video showing a woman making several racist remarks is “deeply troubling” and unacceptable.
“There’s a child there and that’s definitely not a way to behave in public. This is a public place,” Councillor Michael Wolfe says.
He says he doesn’t know exactly what next steps council can take, but hopes it will be discussed at the next Community Safety Committee meeting.
“This is a reminder, an unfortunate reminder that we as a city need to continue to reach out to residents and visitors to our stores and our community,” he says, adding cultural training does happen for city staff, but it can’t be forced on everyone.
“It’s going to be an ongoing challenge, so we can take the steps in community awareness and community promotion of acceptance.”
Wolfe says a situation like this hurts the city’s image and diminishes the work that has been done to support cultural harmony. While he says he can’t speak for the city or all of council, he would like to apologize to the woman who was insulted.
Mounties ask people to stop commenting online
While the investigation continues, the police are asking the public to hold back comments online.
“In order to ensure the integrity of the investigation and privacy of the individuals involved, we are asking the public to respect the investigative process and refrain from posting any comments on social media,” Inspector Sunny Parmar says.
Anyone with additional information is asked to contact the Richmond RCMP.
With files from Jonathan Szekeres.