Hate

The Alberta Human Rights Commission receives inquiries about hate and accepts complaints about discrimination under the Alberta Human Rights Act. We also work with communities and organizations to help prevent discrimination and promote respectful behaviours.

What is hate?

Hate is a harmful action against a person or property that is based on an unreasonable opinion about the other person’s identity. Hate often relates to race, colour, gender, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender expression, and other personal characteristics.

Hate is discrimination under the Alberta Human Rights Act if it is based on one or more protected grounds and in one or more protected areas. Some hateful actions can also lead to criminal charges, often called hate crimes.

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What you need to know

  • Hate can occur regardless of what someone intended.
  • The Commission can help with hate protected under the Act, but may not be able to help with all issues of hate.
  • A person who experiences hate in a protected area and based on a protected ground can make a complaint to the Commission within one year of the incident.
  • Communities and organizations can play a role in preventing hate and encouraging respectful and inclusive behaviours.
  • The Commission can work with communities and organizations to help prevent discrimination and promote respectful behaviours.
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Hate as a form of discrimination

Hate includes many actions. Examples of hate as a form of discrimination include:

  • threatening a co-worker because of their gender identity or gender expression
  • making offensive comments during a job interview about a candidate’s Indigenous identity
  • refusing to serve someone at a restaurant because of the person’s culture
  • refusing to rent to a couple because of their sexual orientation
  • displaying hateful comments about a person or community in a public place, including online

The Commission can only deal with complaints about hate that are discrimination under the Act. It can accept complaints of hate if the incident:

  • is based on one or more protected grounds,
  • occurs in a protected area (such as employment, housing, or goods and services), and
  • leads to a negative effect.

The hate may have a negative effect for the person experiencing it, regardless of what was intended. Examples of negative effects include:

  • insulting or intimidating behaviours that make someone uncomfortable, including feeling threatened, shameful, fearful, or awkward
  • negatively influencing decisions about someone’s job performance or decisions they make about their job
  • being refused a job, promotion, or training opportunity because of hate or for speaking out against hate
  • being refused a service
  • being refused housing, such as a rental unit

Section 3 of the Act also covers statements, publications, notices, signs, symbols, emblems, or other representations that indicate discrimination or an intention to discriminate again a person or class of person or are likely to expose a person or class of persons to hatred or contempt because of any of the protected grounds. An example of discrimination in this area would be publicly distributing a flyer that has hateful comments about a particular group. Read the publications and notices page to learn more about this area.

The Act does not protect against all issues of hate. For example, your neighbour may make a hurtful comment towards you. While this behaviour is not acceptable, the Commission cannot deal with complaints about private conversations between neighbours. You may contact the police to see if the behaviour is a hate crime. You may also contact an agency that supports individuals who have experienced hate.

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The Commission's work on hate

Hate can exist within institutions or systems. For example, an organization may have policies or practices that exhibit hate. A society may have rules, even unspoken ones, that are hateful.

Communities and organizations can play an important role in influencing the beliefs and behaviours of groups of people. For example, a workplace that models and enforces a policy promoting diversity, equality, and inclusion is more likely to have more respectful and tolerant employees.

The Commission receives many requests from communities and organizations who want to take steps to prevent hate. We can help groups develop strategies that prevent discrimination, eliminate barriers, and create respectful and inclusive environments. Refer to the Education and engagement page to learn more about the Commission’s work.

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FAQs

No. To be discrimination, the hate, racism, harassment, or bullying must:

  • be based on one or more protected grounds,
  • occur in a protected area (such as employment, housing, or goods and services), and
  • lead to a negative effect.

For example, discrimination occurs if someone is refused a job, promotion, or training opportunity because of their religious beliefs or any other protected ground.

Section 3 of the Act also covers statements, publications, notices, signs, symbols, emblems, or other representations that indicate discrimination or an intention to discriminate again a person or class of person or are likely to expose a person or class of persons to hatred or contempt because of any of the protected grounds. Read the Section 3 page to learn more about this area.

The Commission can only deal with hate or racism that is protected under the Act. Some examples include:

  • If someone at work says hateful things to you because you have different political views, this is not discrimination under the Act.
  • If your neighbour makes a racist and hurtful comment towards you, this is not discrimination under the Act because conversations between neighbours are not protected.
  • If someone at work harasses you because you have different political views, this is not discrimination under the Act, as political views are not a protected ground.
  • If someone publicly distributes a flyer that has hateful comments about a particular group.

Hate, racism, harassment, and bullying are not acceptable, even if the Act does not cover it.

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If the complaint relates to an issue that is protected under the Alberta Human Rights Act, the Commission’s complaint process applies. Read the Am I in the right place? page to learn more about what kinds of complaints the Commission can deal with.

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Some incidents are discrimination. The Act prohibits discrimination that occurs in a protected area and is based on one or more protected grounds. If you have experienced, witnessed, or are part of a workplace or organization responding to a complaint of discrimination, learn more by reading the Responding to discrimination page. You can also make a complaint to the Commission within one year of the discrimination occurring.

Hate and harassment that is criminal in nature is protected under Canada’s Criminal Code. You can contact the police, Victims’ Services, or Crime Stoppers to report your concerns. The police decide if they have enough evidence to lay charges and the Crown prosecutors bring the offence to court.

Other incidents may not be discrimination under the Act, a hate crime, or criminal. This behaviour is still not okay. Contact an anti-hate agency to report your concerns and receive support. Examples include StopHateAB, Act2endracism (to report hate and racism against people of Asian descent), and the Anti-hate Hotline (to report an anti-Semitic incident). You can also contact 211 Alberta to find local supports.

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The term hate crime describes a criminal offence against a person or property where the suspect is motivated fully or partly by hate. Hate crimes are protected under Canada’s Criminal Code. While there is no specific hate crime offence in the Code, there are several offences that relate to hate, including advocating genocide, public incitement of hatred, and willful promotion of hatred or anti-Semitism. An example of a crime motivated by hate is assaulting a person based on their race.

The standard for a criminal offence is high. Based on the evidence, the judge must believe the person committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Even if the behaviour is not criminal, it does not necessarily mean the behaviour is acceptable.

Contact your local police to learn more.

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Section 3 of the Act prohibits publishing, issuing, or displaying in public a statement or other representation that:

  • indicates discrimination or intent to discriminate, or
  • is likely to expose a person or group of people to hatred or contempt based on one of the protected grounds.

This section of the Act balances the goal of eliminating discrimination with the right to freedom of expression. Read the Publications and notices page to learn more.

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Individuals, organizations, and communities have the ability and responsibility to create environments where all people are included, respected, and treated equitably. There are many ways to prevent or respond to hate.

Some steps you can take include:

To learn more about how the Commission can support your efforts, refer to the Education and engagement page.