Hamilton, Ontario skyline
Hamilton, Ontario skyline iStock

Councillors in the city of Hamilton, Ontario unanimously voted to ban hate symbols such as the swastika and the Confederate flag from city property on Monday.

They also voted to change a by-law so that hate symbols can be removed without notice, reported the Global News.

The city report only lists the Nazi symbol and the flag originating with the South during the US Civil War as hate symbols.

Other hate symbols are “currently not well-defined within the criminal code,” city spokesperson Sarah Ghandour told the CBC.

She added that city staff will be clarifying the definition of a hate symbol as the by-law is put into place.

Hate symbols will only be banned on city property. People will still be able to legally have them on private property.

However, hate crime laws in Canada are not made at a municipal level.

Hamilton police spokesperson Const. Krista-Lee Ernst clarified to the CBC that it is only a criminal offense if a Confederate Flag on private property was attacking a specific target with words or actions.

"If [the symbol was] accompanied by words or an act or a sign, et cetera, the incident would be investigated," she said. "It's very, very specific. Like if that person doesn't own that property, then there's more there, but we live in Canada and it's the freedom of speech."

Hamilton council is taking the action due to the Canadian city’s reputation for hate crimes. According to data from Statistics Canada, Hamilton had the highest rate of hate crimes nationally in four out of the last six years, with Jews among the most frequently targeted groups.

The city’s director of government and community relations, Morgan Stahl, will be implementing procedures to ensure Hamilton is in accordance with anti-hate strategies undertaken by other localities.

She has ordered staff to create a report with “real, tangible timelines and objectives,” the CBC reported.

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