Thobani charge dropped

Ken Hanly khanly at
Thu Oct 25 09:09:05 PDT 2001

Police back off on laying hate crime charge

Canadian Press with Globe and Mail Update

A University of British Columbia professor will not be charged with hate crimes for a recent speech that criticized U.S. foreign policy, drew widespread angry reaction and prompted a hate complaint to police, her lawyer said Wednesday.

Sunera Thobani, a professor of women's studies, said in a speech in Ottawa to a women's conference earlier this month that the U.S. government - not international terrorism - is the most dangerous global force, "unleashing prolific levels of violence all over the world."

"From Chile to El Salvador, to Nicaragua to Iraq, the path of U.S. foreign policy is soaked in blood," she said in her speech.

While her remarks were loudly applauded at a conference in Ottawa on the victimization of women they were later condemned in the House of Commons by federal politicians, including cabinet ministers. Her remarks came less than three weeks after the Sept. 11 attack by terrorists on Washington and New York City.

Toronto lawyer Clayton Ruby said he had been informed by Ottawa police that their investigation was over.

He also again criticized the RCMP member of the B.C. Hate Crimes Unit for telling reporters that a hate crime complaint had been made against Ms. Thobani, the former president of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, a by an unidentified person.

The RCMP later issued an apology to Ms. Thobani saying it was regrettable that an officer told a reporter about the complaint, RCMP spokesman Sgt. Grant Learned, told the on Wednesday.

When a complaint is received by the RCMP it is then forwarded to the applicable police detachment. Ms. Thobani gave her speech in Ottawa.

Ottawa police would not confirm or deny the investigation was over.

"We're announcing (no charges) because in view of the fact that the Mounties gave up such publicity, we want to make sure everyone understands the complaint was dismissed," Mr. Ruby said.

He said Ms. Thobani never believed she had committed a hate crime.

"She's taking it fine because she never believed for a minute that she'd come close to committing a hate crime," he said.

On Ms. Thobani's instructions, Mr. Ruby said he has filed a complaint about the actions of the RCMP hate crimes unit member with the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP.

Sgt. Learned said he could not confirm as a result of privacy issues that a complaint had been filed.

"We've been told a complaint has been made.. but I can't confirm," he said.

The original complainant, a B.C. resident whom police will not name, alleged that Ms. Thobani violated the Criminal Code during her speech.

Ms. Thobani could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

With a report from Allison Lawlor

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