Arrests Spark Canadian Hate Debate

Just across the Canadian border from several white supremacist enclaves in the Pacific Northwest, the arrests of five Skinheads in the murder of a Sikh temple caretaker have sparked a debate on the state of already strict Canadian hate crime laws.

The five, ranging in age from 17 to 25, allegedly beat to death 65-year-old Nirmal Singh Gill outside his temple in Surrey, British Columbia, after a night of partying.

Canadian authorities say the five men are linked to the neo-Nazi Skinhead group known as the Northern Hammer Skins, and three had had run-ins with police before. One of the men, Nathan LeBlanc, 25, had been discharged from the Canadian Armed Forces for racism just three weeks before the murder.

Local Sikhs and human rights activists were joined by B.C. Attorney General Ujjal Dosanjh in calling for stiffer hate crime laws, including the outlawing of hate literature. But Canadian federal officials said it would be hard to draft such laws without infringing free speech. Already, Canada is far tougher on racist propaganda than the United States.