Nothing criminal about sale of "racist" merchandise, expert says

There is nothing criminal about the sale of merchandise that tells newcomers they're unwanted in Alberta, according to a racism expert in Edmonton.

Decals reading, "Speak English Or Get The F--k Out" were on sale at the Super Flea Market at 12011 111 Avenue in Edmonton this past weekend.

Similar material is available online. For $30 you can purchase a T-shirt, with messages such as: "Fit in or f--k off" and "F--k off, we're full."

"It's distasteful for sure, upsetting, and racist, absolutely," said Irfan Chaundhry, who teaches criminology at MacEwan University and studies online hate crimes at the University of Alberta, "but this wouldn't qualify as a hate crime."

During a conversation with Edmonton AM radio show host Mark Connolly on Tuesday, Chaundhry said the messages, although offensive, do not meet the threshold for hate speech. Because no specific minority group is singled out in the slogans, it would be highly unlikely for law enforcement to get involved.

"There isn't any other kind of mechanism to report these type of incidents. And that's a challenge," Chaundhry said.

"We, as a collective, have to make sure that people who do feel this type oppression have a voice."

Chaundhry believes the rhetoric contained in the slogans is borne out of a much larger conversation happening online, a conversation that fails to align with Canada's reputation as a friendly and polite nation.

"When we see sentiments like this, it does unfortunately send a message that we are not as welcoming as we like to think we are."

According to Chaundhry, a growing number of people are using the anonymity of the Internet as a way to voice politically incorrect opinions and create "hateful spaces."

And this small minority is becoming louder in response to the ongoing refugee crisis.

"It's re-emphasizing certain sentiments people have about newcomers, about immigration, race and religion," Chaundhry said.

"When you're trying to be as welcoming and inclusive as possible, some people will believe it's at the expense of others."