What is section 13, you ask? Section 13 is the part of Canadian law that makes it illegal for Canadians to offend people on the left. The Conservatives now have a majority, so they’ve voted in the House of Commons to repeal it. But it still isn’t repealed.
Here it is:
“It is a discriminatory practice for a person or a group of persons acting in concert to communicate telephonically or to cause to be so communicated, repeatedly, in whole or in part by means of the facilities of a telecommunication undertaking within the legislative authority of Parliament, any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt by reason of the fact that person or those persons are identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.”
— Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act
Among the more high-profile targets of Canada’s “human rights” zealots was journalist Ezra Levant, who spent 900 days and $100,000 defending himself against “hate speech” charges. As editor of the Western Standardmagazine, Levant in 2006 published some examples of “Muhammad cartoons” to illustrate a news article about the worldwide firestorm touched off by the cartoons when they were originally published in a Danish magazine. A Canadian imam filed a “human rights” complaint, and Levant was dragged into the meat grinder.
“Section 13 has had a brutal effect on free speech in Canada,” Levant told Chalcedon. “It’s not that the number of prosecutions under Section 13 was ever that large. But it made examples of people, and inspired tremendous self-censorship. But now we’re free, and we can say things that are politically incorrect.”
But how free? The “human rights” legislation in Canada’s thirteen provinces is still, so far, intact.
“The provincial human rights machinery remains,” Levant said, “but this, the federal repeal, has got to cast a shadow over those. [Journalist, author, and commentator] Mark Steyn, for instance, was charged in three different jurisdictions for the same ‘offense.’ But now we’re seeing the censorship being challenged in Saskatchawan, and questioned in some other provinces.”
Section 13 over the years, he said, “has attracted bullies to the ‘human rights’ system. Ninety percent of the defendants charged under Section 13 can’t afford a lawyer. And because countersuits are not allowed, there’s no way to recover your legal expenses.”
In Canada’s “human rights” system, the government pays all the plaintiff’s legal costs, but none of the defendant’s. Nor is there any “double jeopardy” rule to prevent a defendant from being tried multiple times for the same incident.
“Except for me – I’m a Jew – no non-Christian has ever been prosecuted by a human rights tribunal,” Levant said. “And the federal Human Rights Commission really enjoyed Section 13! They had a one hundred percent conviction rate over thirty-two years.
A 100% conviction rate!
This something for us to think about. When you meet a secular leftist who complains about being offended by your speech, you should ask yourself the question “how far would he go with that?”. Because in Canada, the secular went very far, indeed. And similarly in the UK and in some European countries.
We should be grateful that we have the first and second amendments, because a lot of people don’t.