hmv Canada Accused of Selling Hate Rap

Monday, July 26 2010

Complaint filed with Ontario Human Rights Commission

Toronto, Ontario, October 2, 2005 - The abusive language of "hate rap" -- rap/hip hop music that denigrates women -- has crossed over into the mainstream of North American society and is poisoning attitudes towards women. In an effort to stem this trend, Toronto activist Valerie Smith has filed a complaint against HMV Canada Inc. (HMV) with the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) for selling hate rap CDs by performers Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, Eminem, Ja Rule, Jay-Z and Webbie. These men routinely refer to women in their lyrics as "bitches" and "whores", often accompanied by violence or threats of violence.

The OHRC Policy on Sexual Harassment and Inappropriate Gender-Related Comments and Conduct (the "Policy") states that "Discrimination based on sex includes what is commonly referred to as sexual harassment or inappropriate comments and actions of a sexual nature." And, according to this Policy, sexual harassment within the meaning of the Ontario Human Rights Code includes "offensive remarks, gender-related verbal abuse, rough and vulgar humour or language related to gender".

Anyone familiar with rap -- which would include management at HMV -- knows the lyrics of the above-noted performers are rife with all of those, and all are present in the CDs listed in Smith’s complaint. Therefore, by offering such goods for sale in Ontario, Smith claims the company is discriminating against women in contravention of the Ontario Human Rights Code Section 1. The complete complaint can be viewed at in the News Release section.

The misogynist content of rap is a matter of public record, and has been reported extensively in the press for well over a decade (see attached examples). It is not, therefore, possible for management at HMV to be ignorant of the content of the hate rap CDs they offer for sale. Since management is aware of the abusive content, but sells the goods anyway, they appear to be knowingly discriminating against women. However, the Policy specifies that conduct does not have to be "made with the intention to discriminate to be in violation of the Code", so their intent is irrelevant.

At a federal level, the Canadian Human Rights Commission states on their web site "…if people are called insulting names… we all know that such behaviour is discriminatory and degrading." (1) Apparently, it needs to be pointed out that "women are people too". When we are called bitch and whore, we realize that such insults are intended to be discriminatory and degrading, and they are received as such.

Previous Ontario action against hate rap: In October 2000, when Eminem was scheduled to appear at Toronto's SkyDome, M.P.P. Michael Bryant, currently the Attorney General of Ontario, held a press conference denouncing Eminem's lyrics and urging the provincial government to "crack down on music that advocates violence and hate"(2). He was responding to a complaint Smith filed with the Toronto Police Hate Crimes Unit in an attempt to block Eminem’s concert under the Criminal Code hate propaganda law. To his credit, then Attorney General Jim Flaherty took the unprecedented step of trying to prevent Eminem from entering Canada because of the violence against women he promotes in his lyrics. Unfortunately, Mr. Flaherty was unsuccessful because women are excluded from the hate propaganda law. The federal government refuses to change the law to add gender, although they recently amended it to extend protection to those identified by their sexual orientation. for examples of complaint letters.) However, if human rights legislation cannot be used against these products, then women appear to have no protection from those who promote violence and hate against us. Federal politicians of all parties need to be held accountable for this at election is operated by Toronto activist Valerie Smith to provide information on media violence, and strategies for combating it. She is the author of the Action Agenda: A Strategic Blueprint for Reducing Exposure to Media Violence in Canada, funded and published by Ontario’s Office for Victim’s of Crime. The report is available for free download from the Free Radical web site.

(1) Canadian Human Rights Commission web site, How to Recognize Discrimination and Harassment

(2) Bryant raps rapper’s violent message, Michael Bryant MPP news release, October 25, 2000

Women lack crucial protection granted to other groups: White power hate rock is prohibited in Canada because of our hate propaganda law, but hate rap is sold everywhere because federal politicians refuse to grant women the same rights and protections accorded to other vulnerable groups. Smith is therefore attempting to use human rights legislation, both provincial and federal, to curtail the sale of hate rap and some of its destructive spinoff products like Bell Mobility’s PimpTones, cell phone ringtones that use the abusive language of pimps.

File complaints in other jurisdictions: As human rights legislation varies across the country, people are urged to investigate the option of filing complaints with their own Human Rights Commission against the vendors of hate rap and related products, as legislation in other provinces and territories may be more amenable to addressing this problem. (See the News Release section at

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