skip to Main Content

Debating Hate Crime: Language, Legislatures, and the Law in Canada

By Allyson M. Lunny
Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press. 2017.

Criminologists have extensively researched hate crimes, but most of the research has primarily focused on victims and offenders of hate crime, as well as specific hate crime events and experiences. Allyson M. Lunny, the author of Debating Hate Crime: Language, Legislatures, and the Law in Canada, clearly states that this book is different from other hate crime scholarship. Whereas the works of Chakraborti and Garland (2009), Hall (2013), Hamm (2014), and Perry (2001) specifically examined hate crime and subcultures of hate, Lunny takes the unique approach of exclusively examining the language and meaning of political rhetoric concerning hate crimes and related legislation. Through discourse analysis, Lunny shines a critical light on the language used by politicians and experts during political debates of gender, sexuality, race, religious freedom, and hate crime legislation.

Each chapter makes a unique contribution to criminology and criminal justice in general, and to the study of hate crimes in particular. The introduction tells readers what to expect in the chapters that follow and the methods used to reach the conclusions that are presented throughout the book. More importantly, Lunny juxtaposes love and hate to highlight how hate speech is not simply rooted in a singular emotion we call “hate.” The book clearly explains how prejudice and racist attitudes are not only demonstrated through hateful speech and rhetoric, but that prejudices are also revealed by considering what individuals love, cherish, and seek to protect.

The book is largely presented in chronological order. It begins with the earliest hate crime statutes. The first chapter discusses the historical context that led to the creation of Canada’s first hate crime legislation, the hate propaganda statutes of 1970. Chapter 2 examines the debates concerning sexual orientation and enhanced sentencing provisions in the 1990’s. The third chapter continues this discussion by examining the language of those that sought to exclude sexual orientation protections from the hate propaganda statutes under the guise of defending religious freedom. Chapter 4 examines the more contemporary debate about gender expression and identity, and the language used by opponents of hate crime legislation that seeks to include gender as a protected group. The final chapter, chapter 5, is a noteworthy chapter because it details how the Canadian Human Rights Act came to fruition in 1977 and was eventually repealed in 2013.

The book further advances Perry’s (2008) understanding of hate crime offending and victimization. Lunny does this by highlighting how violent hate crimes are about more than the violation of social norms, hegemonic masculinity, and hatred. Rather, the book’s focus on language demonstrates that hate is interrelated with other affective states and emotions. Essentially, Lunny concludes that hate reveals itself and is acted upon violently not only due to hatred and animosity, but also because of anxiety, insecurity, fear, and disgust. Thus, individuals opposed to the implementation and expansion of hate crime legislation may not always be motivated by hatred or animosity. 

Debating Hate Crime: Language, Legislatures, and the Law in Canada is not only recommended for scholars of hate crime, but could also prove useful as a supplementary text for graduate courses on language, lawmaking, and society. Lunny offers a thoughtful and well-written discussion of the language used by lawmakers during debates of hate crime legislation. Lunny’s examination of legislative hate crime discourse draws on prior research, and advances a new perspective of crimes rooted in hate. Prior research is well documented throughout the text and it provides a full bibliography, thorough research notes, and an index to easily find specific topics of interest. Overall, Debating Hate Crime: Language, Legislatures, and the Law in Canada is a notable contribution to the field of criminology and the study of hate crime.

Lander University


Chakraborti, N., & Garland, J. (2009). Hate crime: Impact, causes and responses. Washington DC: Sage Publications.

Hall, N. (2013). Hate crime. New York: Routledge.

Hamm, M. S. (1994). American skinheads: The criminology and control of hate crime. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing.

Perry, B. (2001). In the name of hate: Understanding hate crimes. New York: Routledge.

Perry, B. (2008). Silent victims: Hate crimes against Native Americans. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press.

Back To Top
×Close search