A Toronto man has been found guilty of 10 offences including the seldom-used Criminal Code charge of advocating genocide. The man, Rupen Balaram-Sivaram, openly advocated for genocide on his Twitter and other social media against Jewish people and homosexuals.
According to reports, Balaram-Sivaram showed little emotion as he was read back his posts by Superior Court Justice Michael Brown. His 10 offences include promoting hatred, uttering death threats, and criminal harassment.
“I’m satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the written statements conveyed by the defendant in the various forms of communication …. were public statements. They were not private conversations,” Brown said.
“The emails were sent to many individuals, public figures, and also sent to media organizations. The Twitter account was open and accessible to the public. The Facebook chat … that the defendant engaged in was public, a number of people responded to his comments.”
You can find the remnants of Balaram-Sivaram’s Twitter at @BalaramSivaram, where he goes on anti-Semitic and anti-American rants. Many of the posts have been deleted, but if you wanted to get a better picture of the type of hatred he was spewing, the account itself has not yet been deleted.
Balaram-Sivaram’s following was small, but it was very public as the account itself wasn’t even set to private, an easily accessible feature that one can turn on themselves in their settings.
“Balaram-Sivaram denied all criminal wrongdoing, including sending any hateful email, or that he was behind the Twitter account bearing his name.”
The judge did not believe his testimony.
“The defendant was the author of the tweets found on the Twitter account,” Brown said, citing, among other things, the image of a tiger found on his main Twitter page. “The defendant has the same image as the wallpaper on his cellphone,” while that same tiger image was also in his living room and bedroom at the time of his arrest in 2015.
Balaram-Sivaram also emailed a number of MPs and officials. The contents of which were also ludicrous and dangerous. One email to a Toronto Mp called for the bombing of “rotten, defective, genetic garbage called Jews and homosexuals.”
Balaram-Sivaram also emailed former PM Stephen Harper, Ontario MPP Randy Hillier, and multiple media organizations.
Though there has been hotly contested debate as to whether hate crime laws should exist in the first place, this appears to be a no brainer. Much of the debate does circulate around who decides what defines hate.
While those concerns may be valid, Balaram-Sivaram’s tweets and emails appear to be pretty clear cut. They are obviously hateful, and it’s not behaviour that a society should tolerate.
Judge Brown also referenced an email by Balaram-Sivaram in 2014 on the day Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was shot and killed while standing guard at the National War Memorial in Ottawa.
Balaram-Sivaram’s titled his email “Great news from Ottawa.”
“By sending this email when he did, the defendant intended for his statements to be taken seriously, and intended any like minded individuals who read them to engage in violence similar to that of the assailant on Parliament Hill, as against groups the defendant enumerated in his email,” the judge said.
Who decides when a line is crossed?
Common Law nations have been going through a growth period in having to figure out exactly how to handle situations based around hate crime and hate speech, especially in relation to defining hate speech, and how to handle speech on platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
Chief Justice Dickson for the majority explained the meaning of “hatred” in the context of the Criminal Code
“Hatred is predicated on destruction, and hatred against identifiable groups thereforethrives on insensitivity, bigotry and destruction of both the target group and of the values of our society. Hatred in this sense is a most extreme emotion that belies reason; an emotion that, if exercised against members of an identifiable group, implies that those individuals are to be despised, scorned, denied respect and made subject to ill-treatment on the basis of group affiliation.”
That definition doesn’t seem to align to the definitions that may have been used in the high profile case of Count Dankula, a Scottish man who was recently found guilty of a hate crime for teaching his girlfriend’s pet pug to perform a Nazi salute.
Dankula, real name Markus Meechan jokingly taught his girlfriend’s new pug the not-so-cute trick of saluting. Meechan then recorded the pug performing the act in front of a screen of Hitler, stating that he was trying to get his girlfriend’s very cute pug to do the “least cute thing possible.”
Meechan has since been charged £800 (about $1400 CAD).
So within these two stories, you have one person who has clearly crossed a line in Rupen Balaram-Sivaram, and another who really, just cracked a joke and was charged for wrongthink.
It’s tricky business to set boundaries and to draw lines. It’s a slippery slope. Is it still all or nothing? South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have thrived on the philosophy that you should be able to make fun of everybody equally, regardless of race, sex, religious identify, or anything else of that nature.
Recently, another hit animated TV series Family Guy announced that they will no longer be cracking jokes of a homophobic nature, phasing gay jokes out completely.
Who gets to decide what is acceptable and what is unacceptable? It’s the age-old question.
Boundaries are hard to place. It’s in my opinion that Balaram-Sivaram should serve time for his horrendous actions. But how long? Who decides?
Who gets to pick what groups are protected? It all becomes complicated, and there are no right answers.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments. below.