Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Hate Crime Definition:

The subtly or overt victimization of an individual, for no reason other than skin color, religion, parental heritage, disability, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity.

Related Terms: Genocide, Discrimination, Human Right, Human Dignity, Criminal Harassment, Bigotry

Also known as bias crimes1 or criminal harassment motivated by racially or other grounds protected under local human rights or criminal statutes.

At Chapter 12-19, §38(a) of the State of Rhode Island General Laws, under the title Hate Crimes Sentencing Act, 2013, this:

"If any person has been convicted of a crime charged by complaint, information, or indictment in which he or she intentionally selected the person against whom the offense is committed or selected the property that is damaged or otherwise affected by the offense because of the actor's hatred or animus toward the actual or perceived disability, religion, color, race, national origin or ancestry, sexual orientation, or gender of that person or the owner or occupant of that property, he or she shall be subject to the penalties provided in this section."

hate crime poster, Europe, March 2008Under the header Hate Crimes Act, as as of November 30, 2013, Title 18 of the United States Code, §249, defined a hate crime as an offence committed, "because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin of any person."

In a discussion on hate crime, a manual of the American Federal Bureau of Investigation proposes these words:

"... there are those who are victimized, sometimes subtly and other times very overtly, for no reason other than the color of their skin, the religion they profess, the heritage of their parents, the disability they possess, their sexual orientation, their gender, or their gender identity. Not only is the individual who is personally touched by these offenses victimized, but the entire class of individuals residing in the community is affected."

In other FBI literature reiterated by Ms Chambers in her article, the FBI relies on this definition of a hate crime:

"... (a) crime motivated by pre-formed, negative bias against persons, property, or organizations based solely on race, religion, ethnicity/national origin, sexual orientation, or disability."

Canada's Criminal Code (2010) does not refer to a hate crime per se; rather, it makes it an offence to promote wilfully hatred against any identifiable group (§319):

"Every one who, by communicating statements in any public place, incites hatred against any identifiable group where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace is guilty of (a) an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years....

"No person shall be convicted of an offence if he establishes that the statements communicated were true; if, in good faith, the person expressed or attempted to establish by an argument an opinion on a religious subject or an opinion based on a belief in a religious text; if the statements were relevant to any subject of public interest, the discussion of which was for the public benefit, and if on reasonable grounds he believed them to be true; or if, in good faith, he intended to point out, for the purpose of removal, matters producing or tending to produce feelings of hatred toward an identifiable group in Canada."

In R v Keegstra, Justice Dickson of Canada's Supreme Court wrote:

"Noting the purpose of §319(2), in my opinion the term hatred connotes emotion of an intense and extreme nature that is clearly associated with vilification and detestation. Hatred is not a word of casual connotation. To promote hatred is to instil detestation, enmity, ill-will and malevolence in another. Clearly an expression must go a long way before it qualifies....

"Hatred is predicated on destruction, and hatred against identifiable groups therefore thrives 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."


  • Cramer, Elizabeth, Hate Crime Laws and Sexual Orientation, 26 Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, University of Western Michigan 5 (1999; also NOTE 1, at page 7)
  • Criminal Code, 1985 RSC Chapter C-46, §319
  • R. v. Keegstra, [1990] 3 SCR 697
  • Wisconsin v. Mitchell, 508 US 476 (1993)

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