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?


Should attacking women be a hate crime?

  1. Yes, absolutely, this is a hate crime.

    To answer the question in your article, which is more broad, the answer would have to be ‘no’.

    The reason why it is a hate crime in the example outlined in this article (a terrible situation), is because this is a targeted campaign, as mentioned by the author, against an identifiable group (women). This would also be a hate crime if the person were targeting blondes, red heads, men, short people, old people …

    A crime against any woman (like against any blonde, red head, man, short person, or old person) doesn’t become a hate crime automatically, unless that specific characteristic of the victim were the sole motivator for the offense.

  2. Although this behavior is wrong, it is certainly not a hate crime. It is just one persons opinion on the intellectual capacity of women, not a form of communication that will lead to a breach of the peace. CANADIANS please be very careful about supporting any expansion of hate crime legislation, as hate crime laws unintentionally limit freedom of speech and expression. It is a slippery slope to free speech being silenced. Although this is hypothetical, Imagine if section 319 one day read like this..’Every one who, by communicating statements in any public place, incites hatred against any group or branch of government where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace…”
    I do not want to wake up one day only to find that I live in a Canada where I cannot express my discontentment with government policies. Please for freedom and liberties sake, consider very carefully if hate crime legislation if really worth the potential civil liberties that it threatens. Thank you all for your time in reading this.



    “I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpation”
    -James Madison

  3. I feel that the incidents that have taken place are being completely blown out of proportion. As a female student at the University of Waterloo I do not feel threatened as there have only been a few posters/emails inferring that females are of inferior intelligence. None of them have had threats, and most women i know are not petty enough to react to insults that have been heard many times over the years. The people who are saying that they are scared, or the girl who is having her step-father walk her around campus are being ridiculous.

  4. Exactly, Jayn, there’s a culture of that at Waterloo where everything is expected to shoved under the rug and not be seen. Just because these insults and sort of things are seen over the years doesn’t mean they should be tolerated at UW in any form, especially since Waterloo likes to call it the most “innovative” in the country.

    Plain and simple, the poster/emails have been harassment if anything. A joke goes too far when you start targeting specific (groups of) people. Especially when you decide to go and not only harass students, but professors and faculty too.

  5. To everyone who is saying this shouldn’t be a hate crime this is an example from the OHRC (ontario human rights commission) talking about a poisoned environment:

    “Similarly, a poisoned environment may be created by the distribution or publishing of written materials on a college campus by male students about women which are seen to have a threatening or intimidating content.12”

  6. This is really being blown out of proportion. I mean “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.” Really?
    I personally am I student at University of Waterloo, and I never saw any of these posters, or received the alleged mass email, although I did receive an email from the real president correcting the other email. First that terrible article about us being “too asian” and now this… I’m truly unimpressed.

  7. You completely ignored the second part of the criminal code section you quoted. Yes, the person (let’s refrain from referring to him/her as an attacker, because there was no attack. Just because you feel attacked doesn’t mean you actually were.) did communicate something in a public place. But to be a hate crime, the communication must “incites hatred against any identifiable group where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace”. These posters didn’t incite hatred, and they especially didn’t incite hatred that would lead to a breach of the peace. Honestly, is this what qualifies as journalism at Macleans’s? Pathetic…

  8. This is ridiculous. These posters are certainly immature. However, I do not think this is a hate crime and I absolutely do not think it deserves this much attention.

    I am a student at Waterloo and not one woman I have talked to has felt “threatened” or said they are scared to walk on campus alone. This is just a dumb joke being taken too seriously.

  9. Perhaps I am the first UW female student to report fear on campus, this does not mean that my views are illegitimate. I can honestly saw that I have been followed on campus by an ex. I can honestly say that I have gone to campus police trying to deal with the restraining order that I had place on a ex, and how he violated the terms, and nothing happened. I can also honestly say that as a visual minority, who only looks like a Caucasian with a tan, I have been harassed by both minorities for not looking more like a minority, and by non-minorities for looking too much like a minority. I realize that my comment is not the norm, but I can express as a volunteer for the GLOW office, the fear by some of our visitors was real. The fear I feel by being on campus at night is real. And while I understand most of the attention was brought to the President only after he was impersonated, I appreciate what UW has begun to do in this investigation. What I believe the next step should take involve a walk-home safe program, perhaps an officer in the Student Life Center building, and a mandatory event during orientation week so that all individuals learn to respect one another, no matter what race, religion, sexual orientation or gender that one happens to be.

  10. Hi Samantha,

    I agree that people should be made to feel safe on campus. But support should be based on who is most likely to be a victim – not based on who *feels* more fear. Statistically men are much more likely to be victims than women. (1.5 to 4 times as likely depending on the crime).

    Stats here:


    So I support enhanced safety measures, provided they are provided for everyone. And some campaigns should be done to make men feel that these services are for them too – as statistically men are most at risk.

    Further, I do want to say that people do have some responsibility to keep their fears in line with reality. I imagine that in the segregationist South, there were white people that felt fear or discomfort being placed near black people. Eventually people saw reason and realized that unfounded feelings from the white populace was no excuse to deny blacks their rights as equal members of society.

  11. Samantha,

    I should have included this my other post. It sounds like you have more reason than most to feel fear. I’m sorry to hear about your problems with your ex. He or she sounds like a real jerk. And the racial harassment sounds plain mean. I think that you deserve to have measures taken to make the campus safer for you. But I also feel that just as much effort should be made to make the campus safer for men.

  12. I am a student at Waterloo and I definitely agree with this article. I think this should be taken seriously and safety around campus should be increased. I see that a lot of people think that people are over-reacting to these posters but I think it’s because they haven’t seen all the posters (including two that were in the emails) and the facebook post. To all those that think this is just a joke being taken too seriously, I will say that perhaps you could’ve said that for the first poster (thought I definitely don’t agree but I see why most people would). But after the other posters and electronic communication started coming up, it’s definitely NOT a joke anymore.
    I don’t see why someone’s fear of walking alone on campus needs to be made fun of either. I am sure no-one would bother their family member to walk them around if they didn’t actually feel threatened. You can’t really doubt how “afraid” someone was because that is for them to decide, not us.
    When it comes to safety of students, more lighting on campus at night, more cameras in and outside buildings and more frequent police patrols will do no harm to anyone as far as I know. I see that several posts have been about men requiring safety as well, and TRUST ME these changes will be just as good for men as for women. All the female students that mentioned the feelings of fear did not do so because they think they’re more unsafe than the male students, they said so because they really do feel threatened after this occourance! And who wouldn’t after being labeled to have “defective moral intelligence” or after seeing a legendary woman like Mary Curie who died of cancer while coming up with treatment for cancer insulted being called the “mother of nuclear bombs” or after reading something like this:

    “When a bad idea comes to this Earth it always hides behind The Shield of Vulnerability. This way it is immune from being attacked in the open. Radioactive Technology was hiding behind the vulnerable looking mask of Marie Curie and this is why no one caught it in advance. They figured that if a female was pushing it then it was harmless. They figured wrong. The truth is that overeducated women are truly dangerous. If they don’t know right from wrong they will nuke the whole Planet and call it the latest fashion from Holt Renfrew. This is the truth. The world is in trouble today because the higher moral intelligence of men is not in charge anymore. How long will you let this continue? The choice is in your hands. I didn’t leave posters on your campus because I am a fool. I left them because I am your father who is concerned about where your education is ultimately going. You are being taught the virtues of gender equality when gender equality is nowhere in the Orginial Plan of Creation. Queen Elizabeth is leading you astray and charging you big money for this evil favour. When you graduate from here you will have a degree but no real intelligence. This is the truth.” (TAKEN FROM THE FACEBOOK PROFILE THE PERSON MADE).

    Please try to see the depth of Sexism that lays in these posts and try to understand how important it is to stand up against this if we want it to stop. There is no doubt that men need to feel safe as well, but that’s exactly the whole point of this: we want EVERYONE to be safe on campus…and no-one needs to be favoured for this!

  13. To answer your question simply, no. If you had bothered to take the time to read the actual legislation, it states the quote that you included, but goes on to define what an “identifiable” group is – “ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation” as your article shows. Is this right? No. But saying the person HAS committed a hate crime is also wrong, until we change the legislation. The legislation clearly does not include gender, and until it does (as it should) we cannot keep going in circles saying someone should be charged with a crime for which they do not meet the requirements.

  14. Pingback: The Fourteen Not Forgotten and Sexist Posters at Waterloo | Geek Feminism Blog

  15. This thing has blown way out of proportion.

    “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.”
    If Jaelle McMillan was not lying to further sensationalize the story, then she should definitely seek professional psychiatric help. That kind of paranoia is nowhere close to be rational as a response to petty misogynistic posters across our campus.

  16. No women were attacked and it wasn’t a hate crime, just words.

    I don’t think it was really serious, more likely a satirical response to the decades of man-hate from women’s studies departments.

  17. Read the fine print:

    “(7) In this section,
    “identifiable group” has the same meaning as in section 318; ”

    and from 318:

    “Definition of “identifiable group”
    (4) In this section, “identifiable group” means any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation. ”

    Answers your question?

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