Conservative MP introduces bill to abolish Section 13 speech code

Here is the description for that video, posted by SDAMatt: (Note: Tory = Conservative)

Tory backbencher Brian Storseth wants to eliminate Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA). That is the provision in federal law that gives the Canadian Human Rights Commission authority to hear complaints of hate speech on the Internet. We wish Mr. Storseth, the MP from Westlock-St. Paul in Alberta, well in this campaign. Section 13 is a particularly pernicious infringement on free speech. Originally added to the CHRA in 2001 as a protection for vulnerable groups against racist or violence-promoting websites, the clause has more often been used by minority activists (or those purporting to act on behalf of minorities) to silence those who do not share their opinions.

The biggest problem with Sec. 13 is that its provisions make it far too easy for commissioners to find an alleged offender guilty. Unlike in a court of law – where the presumption of innocence, rules of evidence and bans on hearsay testimony protect defendants from wrongful prosecution – at a human rights tribunal complainants may remain anonymous and complaints may be filed by third parties with no direct interest in the case at hand. (Some folks even make a profitable hobby out of launching these complaints.) Hearsay evidence is perfectly acceptable, the onus to prove one’s innocence often falls on the accused, and tax dollars pay for the plaintiff’s lawyers while the accused is on his or her own to fund a defence.

A further flaw in Sec. 13 is that neither the truth nor the lack of intent to harm is permitted as a defence. It does not matter whether the offending Internet message was truthful or if adjudicators find it “likely to expose an identifiable group to hatred or contempt” (the standard employed under criminal law) – the owner of the website on which it appears and the person who posted it are guilty anyway.

In 2007, Sec. 13 was used against writer Mark Steyn for material he wrote in Maclean’s magazine that four Muslim students claimed had offended them. That same year, a similar provision in Alberta provincial human rights law was used to prosecute Ezra Levant for publishing the infamous Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in the now-defunct Western Standard magazine. In both cases, the clear intent of the complainants was to limit legitimate debate about religious extremism.

Fears that getting rid of Sec. 13 will lead to a flood of vicious anti-Semitism and the like are unfounded. Sections 318 through 320 of the Criminal Code already prohibit “hate propaganda” – including “any writing, sign or visible representation that advocates or promotes genocide.” And it has been used several times to prosecute true hatemongers, James Keegstra, most famously. Nothing in Mr. Storseth’s proposal would affect those laws.

The Conservatives have a majority in the House of Commons and the Senate, and they have Prime Minister Stephen Harper there to sign the bill. They need to do this right away, and then ban political contributions by large corporations and public sector unions.

But wait! There’s more! (H/T Andrew)


The Supreme Court of Canada recently laid the smack down on Human Rights Tribunals across the country. In a recent decision, B.C. Workers’ Compensation Board v. Figliola, a five-judge majority dramatically reduced the discretion of human rights tribunals to rehear discrimination complaints already decided by other administrative bodies such as workers’ compensation boards.

According to lawyer Peter Gall, who is also representing Dr. Brian Day in a health care related case that the Canadian Constitution Foundation is also assisting in, “the practice of workers taking a second kick at the can in front of human rights tribunals after their discrimination complaints had already been dismissed by a labour board or other administrative decision-maker ‘was happening often enough that it was a real problem'”.
This Supreme Court decision applies to all human rights tribunals across Canada and is very important to the business community of British Columbia and Canada because it provides for finality and prevents “forum shopping” and the issue of multiple proceedings.

I know that there are  a lot of conservative voters who are disillusioned with the Canadian Tories over the abortion issue and the free speech issue. The Conservatives need to get something done on these issues, immediately.


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