Confederate flag flown in Calgary cemetery, hate crimes unit investigating
CALGARY -- Calgary police confirmed Tuesday that someone flew a confederate flag in the Union Cemetery, near Reader Rock Garden, in southeast Calgary.
A picture of the flag hoisted up a pole in the military memorial section of the cemetery garnered attention on social media early Tuesday evening.
Ward 9 Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra says he and Ward 8 Coun. Evan Woolley called bylaw officials to respond, and the Calgary Police Service was asked to join.
According to CPS officials, the flag was not flying atop the pole by the time officers arrived on scene but was located.
Police seized the flag and the hate crimes unit has launched an investigation.
In a statement, police said Canada has "a very high legal threshold for what is considered hate speech in order to protect the Charter freedoms of thought, belief and expression."
"Unless something communicated in public is likely to directly cause a breach of the peace, it is extremely rare for even the most offensive views to meet the legal threshold for criminal charges," it read.
"In fact, the threshold is so high that charges can only be laid with the prior approval of the Attorney General of Canada. However, it can be considered a hate-motivated offence if a crime is committed while prejudicial views are being expressed. While the value of the stolen item in this case was small, the statement made through the theft and flag raising that followed makes it a serious matter."
Evidence of a hate motivation is considered by the courts after a person is found guilty of the connected crime. If the judge decides during sentencing that hate was a motivation for the offence, it is an aggravating factor that can add to the convicted person’s sentence.
Carra says the incident draws parallels to the racist symbols that were present at an anti-lockdown rally in Calgary in February. Rally-goers carried tiki torches, as had been seen during white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, N.C.
"(We need to) make it very clear to people who seem to think it's OK to be racist, that it is not," said Carra. "This is Canada, it is 2021 these are ridiculously anachronistic positions to be taking in our modernistic society."
He adds that the symbol is meant to spread hatred and fear aimed at the city's diverse population including people of colour.
"It's unacceptable. I feel anger."
Police say no suspects have been identified.
Some other councillors took to social media later Tuesday evening to condemn the incident.