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Queen's University
 

The Kane Case (1992)

Are offensive signs/symbols displayed on private property considered to be unlawful?

Facts

In September 1990, the Church of Jesus Christ Christian-Aryan Nations held an Aryan Fest on private property in Provost, Alberta. Three symbols were displayed: a sign reading "KKK White Power", a thirty foot burning cross, and a Nazi Flag with a swastika. Film coverage of the event shows evidence of an intimidating atmosphere including guard dogs, firearms and gun fire, uniformed and hooded invitees, anti-Semitic and racist chants, intimidation and taunting of protestors.  In their defence, the respondents claimed that the three signs in question were religious symbols; the KKK White Power sign was a message meant to rally the chosen (Aryan) people to fulfil their commitment to God (by creating the Aryan State); the burning cross was a symbol of Christian purification by fire and the Swastika was a holy symbol of racial pride. Moreover, they were all three were exempt from s. 2(1) of the Individuals Rights Protection Act because they were displayed on private property, not "before the public" as required by the law. (Kane v. Church of Jesus Christ Christian-Aryan Nations (No. 3_ (1992), 18 C.H.R.R. D/268)

Issues:

  1. Was the display of sign and symbols "before the public"?
  2. Did the symbols indicate discrimination or an intention to discriminate?

Rulings:

  1. Yes
  2. Yes

Reasoning:

  1. Although the Swastika, Cross and KKK sign were located on private property, they were clearly visible from the public road. As such they were "before the public".
  2. The Board ruled that the sign and symbols indicated discrimination and the intention to discriminate by looking at the meaning of the objects standing alone and in their political and material contexts: The meaning of the sign and symbols standing alone According to neighbours and complainants, the Swastika, KKK letters and Burning Cross signed both a threat of violence against Jewish and Non-White people and an invitation to discriminate against them. According to expert witnesses, the sign and symbols  were used to encourage others to discriminate against Jews and Non-whites. According one, they "promote latent discrimination in the denial of access to employment, accommodation, education and social services (277). To another, they were used "to induce discriminatory behaviour in others (279). A third, who called them "discriminatory expressive acts" indicated that they discriminate by dividing the world into two groups: the included and the excluded. The meaning of the sign and symbols against the background of the National State Platform The Alberta Board of Inquiry learned that the Church's National State Platform called for the establishment of an Aryan state through the systematic expulsion of non-Aryans. "The Board finds the Swastika, burning cross and KKK White Power sign reflect the doctrine and are integral to the aspirations of the Church. The choice of these particular symbols was deliberate. Each of them reinforces the objectives of the Church. The main goal of the church is the creation of an all-white or Aryan nation. The program involves both encouraging "Aryan" families to move into the designated territory and discouraging non-Aryans from staying. Considered in this context the collection of symbols displayed at the Aryan Fest effectively communicates the message "we intend to discriminate against Non-Aryans" (293) The meaning of the signs and symbols in the context of the Aryan Fest 'If there were any doubt about the meaning of the sign and symbols, standing alone, the atmosphere of violence and intimidation removes and possibility of a benign interpretation. The Board finds the climate of the Aryan Fest enhanced the meaning of the sign and symbols" (296-7)

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