Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Media Treatment of Hate as an Aggravating Circumstance for Sentencing: The Criminal Code Amendment and the Miloszewski Case

Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Media Treatment of Hate as an Aggravating Circumstance for Sentencing: The Criminal Code Amendment and the Miloszewski Case

Article excerpt


This paper critically examines how the print media contribute to a bifurcated understanding of racism and racially motivated violence. Of particular interest is how the print media simultaneously reject and support racism in its reporting of hate as an aggravating sentencing circumstance in the racially motivated homicide of a Sikh caretaker in Surrey, B.C. (R. v. Miloszewski [1999] B.C.J. No. 2710 (B.C.Prov.Ct.)). Sixty-two newspaper items relating to this case were reviewed for the analysis. The findings reveal that the print media rely primarily on criminal justice officials to animate their coverage of R. v. Miloszewski. Although the print media support legislative measures to denounce racially motivated hate (subparagraph 718.2(a)(i) of the Criminal Code of Canada), they pathologize and individualize the offenders in the Miloszewski case. Instead of understanding and reporting about the crime within its broader socio-cultural context, the media explain-away" the incident by suggesting the crime is linked to the pathological behaviour of aberrant 'skinheads'. The paper concludes by discussing the implications of pathologiziag the offence and suggests strategies for overcoming the contradictory reporting of racism and hate in the print media.

Cette etude se veut une critique de la maniere dans laquelle la presse ecrite contribue a une comprehension bifurquee de la violence causee par le racisme. Il est particulierement interessant de constater de quelle maniere la presse ecrite en meme temps rejette et appuie le racisme dans ses reportages sur la haine en tant que circonstance declenchante dans la determination de la peine dans le meurtre caractere racial du concierge sikh a Surrey, en Colombie-Britannique (R. contre Miloszewski [1999] B.C.J. No. 2710 (B.C. Prov. Ct.)). Soixante-deux articles de journaux portant sur cette affaire ont ete revus et analyses. Les resultats ont montre que la presse ecrite se flait essentiellement aux representants de la justice criminelle pour assurer la couverture de R. contre Miloszewski. Bien que la presse ecrite appuie les mesures legislatives visant denoncer Ia haine raciale (sous-alinea 718.2(a)(i) du Code criminel du Canada), elle fait la pathologie des coupables et les individualise dans l'affaire Miloszewski. Au lieu de comprendre et de rapporter le crime dans un contexte socioculturel plus large, la presse [much less than] justifie [much greater than] 1'incident en laissant entendre que le crime etait lie a un comportement pathologique aberrant de [much less than] tetes rasees [much greater than]. L'etude conclut sur une discussion des implications de la pathologisation du crime et propose des strategies visant a remedier aux reportages contradictoires sur le racisme et la haine dans la presse ecrite.


Issues of race and racism are commonly understood in contradictory and confounding terms within contemporary Canadian society. Increasingly, Canadians have little difficulty rejecting and denouncing racism and supporting equality, while at the same time ignoring and even condoning softer versions of racism that support the significance of race (see, for example, Heir, 2000 and Li, 2001). This apparent contradiction can be attributed, in part, to a growing tendency to attribute racism to racial supremacists and racially motivated violence without realizing the broader social contexts that produce racism in its various forms (see, for example Heir, 2000). Building on the notion of "democratic racism," a concept advanced by Henry and Tator (1994), Li reminds us that, "[i]ronically, it is the readiness of the majority of people to reject the more extreme position of racism that makes the softer version so much more palatable and so natural" (2001:90).

A corollary of our preoccupation with extreme forms of racism is the misconception that the only roadblock prohibiting a just, fair, and equitable society is the actions of a perverse few. …

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