Justice may yet be done, but no thanks to some Toronto trial judge who acquitted a group of neo-Nazis of hate crimes because he needed evidence that when a bigot says “Gypsy” he or she means “Roma.” The Toronto Star reports that the supreme court overturned the acquittal.
You want to have faith in the justice system. You want to think that even if the police can be a bit… er… racist from time to time, the courts will be wise, sensible if not progressive.
But like Richards and Jagger said, you can’t always get what you want.
So there’s this group of Nazis picketing outside one of the hotels the federal immigration department uses to house refugee claimants (under house arrest). They’re holding up signs that say stuff like “Honk if you hate gypsies” and other epithets that incite hatred.
The police charge them with hate crimes. A fair cop, say I. But when it comes to trial, the racists’ lawyer argues that, well, who’s to say that the Roma people (which is what Gypsies call themselves – gypsy itself they consider pejorative) are who the Nazis mean when they say “gypsy”.
And the trial judge bought it. He wouldn’t even allow the prosecution to read out the dictionary definitions of the words.
And so the crown prosecutor’s got to take the issue all the way to the Supreme Court to get a group of judges (and it was a 9-0 decision) to say, “hey, Judge Russell Otter you’re an idiot.”
Imagine if the racists had been protesting the existence of black people with signs that said “nigger” and the judge had acquitted them because… well, how do we know they meant “black people.”