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Exception to Excess: Tactical Use of the Law by Outgroups in Bias Crime Legislation


Sean Robertson is a recent graduate of the Department of Geography, Simon Fraser University. He can be contacted at I would like to thank Ruth Buchanan (Osgoode Hall Law School) and Nicholas Blomley (SFU Geography) for their comments on a very early version of this article.


US bias crime jurisprudence follows the discrimination model and ejects “hate” from scrutiny. It is suggestive of improvements that should be made to Canadian law insofar as it also better tracks the enactment of discrimination against difference occasioned in the everyday. Criminal law, however, remains weak at preventing crime. And where the law requires evidence of discrimination, it iterates the stereotypes and social backdrop of hate crime. But this view on law and culture underestimates how outgroups may produce countermeanings and influence the law. Turning to the more material basis of identity, neoconservatism has given the law a broad ambit whereby coercion as opposed to investment in human capacities is promoted as the means to social order. Where scholars argue that discursive collaboration with retributionist policy requires outgroups to pursue cultural revalorization, given the decreasing freedom under the contemporary authoritarian paradigm, I argue that they must also pursue distributional justice.