No grounds to charge man who yelled racial slurs at Asian woman, Guelph police say

Guelph police say there are no grounds to charge a man who yelled racial slurs at an Asian woman over the weekend.

Police said in a news release on Wednesday morning that officers acted on information from the public and were able to identify the 21-year-old man.

Officers spoke with him Tuesday evening and he was warned about his behavior and told he could face criminal harassment charges.

In a follow-up release sent on Wednesday afternoon, police said there were no grounds for charges in relation to the incident.

"While racist comments are seen as an aggravating factor when combined with criminal activity, such as making death threats, racist comments on their own are not illegal under the Criminal Code of Canada," the release from police said in part. "There are two sections of the Code specifically dealing with hate. Section 319 (1) addresses the public incitement of hatred where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace, while Section 319 (2) addresses wilful promotion of hatred against an identifiable group."

Police said they reviewed the incident and decided it didn't meet the criteria to charge the man under either of those sections.

"The Guelph Police Service acknowledges and understands the hurt such actions cause to members of the community," the release added.

Aaliyah Subang said she was walking her dog on Sunday afternoon in the area of Goodwin Drive and Beaver Meadow Drive when a man approached her and launched into a racist rant.

Subang and police said the man appeared agitated. He reportedly walked away, but kept turning back to yell and make obscene gestures.

"This is an experience that will stay with me for the read of my life and it's scary to have that feeling going forward," Subang said.

Subang said Wednesday she saw the man again this week and he gave her the finger. She said she's still shaken from the incident and called police again on Tuesday night.

"I really do hope there's more than just a verbal warning so this man understands there are consequences to his actions and he can't just keep thinking 'I say whatever I want' and walk away scot-free," Subang said.

She said police told her to reach out again if another incident occurs.

Cooper Lord, a criminal lawyer in Kitchener, said police have no grounds to lay a charge. He added that while racist language shouldn't be tolerated, speech is protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

"Only in very limited circumstances can hate speech actually be charged as a crime," Lord said.

Guelph police continue to encourage anyone who feels they may be a victim of a hate-related crime to contact them.