An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act (protecting freedom)

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2013.

Sponsor

Brian Storseth  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill.

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Canadian Human Rights Act by deleting section 13 to ensure there is no infringement on freedom of expression guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

  • June 6, 2012 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
  • May 9, 2012 Passed That Bill C-304, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act (protecting freedom), as amended, be concurred in at report stage.
  • Feb. 15, 2012 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

May 30th, 2012 / 6:10 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Brian Storseth Westlock—St. Paul, AB

moved that Bill C-304, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act (protecting freedom), be read the third time and passed.

Madam Speaker, I am happy to be back in the House of Commons once again to debate my private member's bill, C-304, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act (protecting freedom).

I would like to thank justice committee for its support, as well as the many witnesses who took time out of their busy schedules to discuss Bill C-304 and freedom of speech within committee. It is these honest and open dialogues which have moulded our great nation and will continue to advance our society into the future.

Moving a private member's bill through the House of Commons has been a tremendous experience, one that has led to many obvious ups and downs. However, it has been one that has garnered me the opportunity to work more closely with my fellow colleagues in both chambers. I would like to take this time to thank my colleagues for both their support and their constructive criticism.

It has also given me the opportunity to travel our great country from coast to coast to discuss this issue with Canadians. It is from them that I have really received the passion for freedom of speech within our country. I would like to thank Canadians for their support on this.

At a practical level, I would like to thank my staff member Amee Pundick for tremendous work on this bill. Most important, the pressures that moving a private member's bill through the House can create on one's schedule means that there is more pressure on the family. I would like to thank my parents, my son Eastin and my daughter Ayden for their patience and most important my wife Amel for her tremendous support. She truly is the rock of our family.

Freedom of expression is one of the cornerstones of our great democracy, a cornerstone which is eroding away due to unnecessary censorship by an overzealous bureaucracy. Regulating speech is a dangerous idea and not compatible with the principles of a free society. As Thomas Jefferson said, “the only security of all is a free press”.

My private member's bill C-304 would help protect and enhance this fundamental freedom, because without freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of assembly hold no value. Freedom of speech truly is the bedrock upon which all other freedoms are based.

Bill C-304 calls for the repeal of section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act in order to ensure that freedom of speech is preserved and promoted through an open, transparent and democratic process, which is the Criminal Code of Canada.

Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act has been a contentious topic for a number of years. It has been widely acknowledged that it impedes section 2(b) of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms which states that every individual has the fundamental freedoms that are “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication”.

This conflict between section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act and section 2(b) of the charter was reaffirmed in 2008 by Professor Richard Moon, who was hand-picked by the Canadian Human Rights Commission to review this act. Professor Moon clearly stated, on page 31 of his report, “The principal recommendation of this report is that section 13 be repealed so that the censorship of Internet hate speech is dealt with exclusively by the criminal law.”

Professor Moon goes on to highlight a quote from the Cohen Committee, which states that “No civil statute can create a moral standard equivalent to that of criminal law”. This quote perfectly summarizes the unparalleled ability of the Criminal Code to properly address sensitive issues while maintaining a balanced approach.

It is also important to note that the conflict between section 13 and the charter was reaffirmed in 2009 by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal itself, which found section 13 to be unconstitutional.

Since Bill C-304 was first introduced in the House of Commons I have had opportunities to attend a number of conferences and annual meetings across Canada to discuss the content of the bill, the repealing of section 13 and the implications that it would have on our country.

Most people were astounded when they heard for the first time that our fundamental freedoms can be overruled by a quasi-judicial body that feels that something someone said was likely to have exposed another individual or group to hatred or contempt. That is right, the individual simply had to feel that it was likely to do this.

Canadians find it difficult to believe that such a loosely written and vague law has the power to undermine the fundamental rights that Canada so proudly bases its democracy upon, which men and women have given their lives defending.

While section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act may have been implemented with well-meaning intentions in an effort to combat discrimination and hate speech, the actual implications reach much further, chilling free speech and stifling the growth and development of our society. It is in this zone of ambiguity and the ripple effect that section 13 creates that we should all be concerned. Subsection 13(1) states:

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 that person or those persons are identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.

There is it right there: “any matter that is likely to expose a person”.

Subsection 13(2) goes on to extend this law to matters that are communicated by means of computer and the Internet. What this really means is that the Canadian Human Rights Commission and Canadian Human Rights Tribunal only have to feel that one is “likely” to have offended someone. This is not a narrowly defined legal definition, which would be far more appropriate.

Under section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, truth is not a defence and intent is not a defence. One no longer has the right to due process, the right to a speedy trial or the right to an attorney. It is alarming that until recently the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal had a 100% conviction rate. This is not a sign of vindication; rather, it neglects to acknowledge that 90% of defendants fail to obtain legal advice because they simply cannot afford it, while at the same time the legal costs of the plaintiffs are fully covered. This is simply un-Canadian.

As a boy born and raised in northern Alberta, I have grown up obsessed with hockey. My son has followed in my footsteps. His favourite hockey player is Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins. I often compare this scenario to a hockey game. Placing well-paid human rights lawyers up against defendants who generally have little to no background in the legal field is like placing a recreational hockey team up against Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins and being surprised when the professional team wins again and again and again. This approach simply makes no sense, as the tables are obviously tipped in favour of the professional team or, in this case, the human rights lawyers.

These are not the characteristics of an open and democratic society that promotes equality and fairness. These basic provisions of law are considered to be natural rights by Canadians and are provided to any other individual in any other court in Canada under the Criminal Code. This is a clear depiction of what happens when censorship and bureaucracy are allowed to run amok. This is one of the reasons I have introduced Bill C-304, protecting freedom, in an effort to reconstruct freedom of expression as a cornerstone of our great country.

To achieve this, complaints must be directed to a fair, open and transparent judicial system, not a broken system that prides itself in operating behind closed doors.

By repealing section 13 from the Canadian Human Rights Act, we would give back to Canadians the right to be offended, and individuals will have the recourse to hate speech through the Criminal Code of Canada. The continued use of the Criminal Code to address hate messaging would ensure that all individuals are protected from threatening, discriminatory acts while preserving the fundamental right to freedom of expression. It would give back the right to fair, open and transparent trial and the right for people to face their accusers. It would make defences such as truth or intent allowable. It would even give back the right to recover costs should the claim be dismissed.

True hate speech is a serious crime and one that needs to be reviewed by a real court and investigated by real police officers. The Criminal Code has been tried and tested. It is ingrained with a system of checks and balances, a system to which society has entrusted its fundamental freedoms, a system society has seen as fit to enforce the rule of law in our great country. Justice is not served when it is hidden in the dark alleys of quasi-judicial bodies.

The solution here is not to take a band-aid approach and address the superficial inadequacies of section 13, as some have suggested. The fundamental deficiencies and broken structure would still be there if we did that. These issues cannot simply be fixed through amendments, as section 13 would still be imposed under the discretion of a subjective, quasi-judicial system, and the fundamental principles that guide the implementation of section 13 would continue to create a two-tiered system of hate speech in which one form of hate speech would be deemed worse than another. This is simply not appropriate.

Hate speech is a very serious issue and must be dealt with appropriately, with police investigations and appropriate penalties. True hate speech, speech intended to incite hatred and subject persons of an identifiable group to harm, deserves more than a slap on the wrist and should be carefully examined under the Criminal Code, which already contains hate speech provisions and which is a far more appropriate fit.

Opponents of my private member's bill have voiced their concerns on multiple occasions regarding the burden of proof associated with the Criminal Code being too great and too cumbersome. I would like to take this opportunity to address this argument one more time.

The burden of proof under the Criminal Code is indeed more comprehensive; however, I would argue that due to the seriousness of these allegations, it is in fact far more appropriate to apply the standard of proof beyond any reasonable doubt than the standard of a balance of probabilities. What my opponents fail to recognize is that in the highly subjective system currently employed by section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, the standard of proof only becomes a significant issue when facts are actually disputed. My question in return is this: should facts not need to be concrete prior to overruling a fundamental right protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, protected by our forefathers?

I believe the solution is to use the laws we already have and to provide authorities with the tools and support necessary. This step would ensure a successful transition in which true democracy and freedom of speech can thrive so that society can continue to grow and adapt peacefully in our country. It is through freedom of speech and expression that we change governments, not through riots and revolts. It is how we test societal norms and successfully develop our nation. It is through freedom of expression that we have shaped, and will continue to shape, our great country.

As I have stated before, this is an issue for all Canadians. Freedom of speech is equally important whether one is in the opposition or the government. This is not an issue of blue versus orange or red. This is not an issue of right versus left. This is an issue of freedom, transparency and balance for all Canadians.

With that, I would like to challenge all members to look beyond the intent of section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act and truly examine its structure and implications and consider what we, as a free and democratic country, are willing to give up. It is time to take a stand to protect our fundamental freedoms and ensure that our children and future Canadians are not denied these basic rights through unnecessary censorship and bureaucracy.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

May 30th, 2012 / 6:30 p.m.
See context

NDP

Craig Scott Toronto—Danforth, ON

Madam Speaker, I am privileged to rise tonight to speak to Bill C-304 which is before us. My main purpose in speaking today is to ask the question of what happens after this bill, if it passes. I suggest we need to indeed fill a gap, not simply with respect to the fact that gender protection will be lost unless something is done in a hurry, but some of the distinct benefits of civil remedies in this area will also go by the board. We cannot simply rely on the Criminal Code. That is my main message.

It is important to remind ourselves that section 13 has been part of the Canadian Human Rights Act since its enactment in 1977. It was designed to address at the beginning what we now call robocalls, automated repeat calls that disseminate hate messages on the grounds that are protected in the Canadian Human Rights Act. Afterward, Internet websites and their capacity to disseminate, on a grand scale, hate messages were added. As well a problematic section, which everybody agrees is problematic, was added to include, among the remedies under the Canadian Human Rights Act, the possibility of imposing a financial penalty of up to $5,000. That is what we have at the moment.

The question is whether this is consistent with freedom of expression. The Supreme Court of Canada in the Taylor case, an earlier version of section 13, has made clear it is. However, equally important is a second directly related question of whether or not the regulation of mass or repeated hate dissemination is required or at least strongly encouraged by the right to non-discrimination or by the human rights values of equality and dignity that underlie the charter and international human rights law. In that respect, we would do well to remind ourselves of a passage from Chief Justice Dickson, as he then was before leaving the court, in the Taylor case, where he said, in part:

—messages of hate propaganda undermine the dignity and self-worth of target group members and, more generally, contribute to disharmonious relations among various racial, cultural and religious groups, as a result eroding the tolerance and open-mindedness that must flourish in a multicultural society which is committed to the idea of equality.

I was also struck by the testimony of Mr. Mark Freiman, the just-past president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, who appeared before our committee. Among a number of insights that I commend to all colleagues to have a look at, if this issue goes forward after the vote, in terms of what we would do with respect to civil remedies, his testimony is extremely valuable. One of the things he said:

It is my view that subsection 13(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act is an important resource in protecting vulnerable communities from the harm caused by hate propaganda.

He went on to say:

Is hate speech dangerous? To ask the question is to answer it. History provides the clearest examples of the mortal dangers—that is, dangerous to life—that hate speech can carry. Study Nazi propaganda in the thirties. Study Cambodian propaganda in the seventies. Study anti-Tutsi propaganda in Rwanda in the nineties. Study racist propaganda in the former Yugoslavia of the nineties. You will get your answer.

Therefore, it is really important that we keep in mind that kind of backdrop as to why section 13 was there in the first place and what would be lost in the process of repealing it.

My colleague who has sponsored the bill has been arguing, and has been arguing with a great deal of passion and consistency from his point of view, that the Criminal Code, especially section 319, is all that we need. It is partly where it should be for various reasons and by implication he seems to be suggesting it is effective. Although in committee he did acknowledge that he rather hoped that something might be done with section 319 to make it more effective.

However, before going on that route of accepting that repeal of section 13, the civil remedy side under the Canadian Human Rights Act can be replaced solely by a Criminal Code provision, we should again remind ourselves of the words of Chief Justice Dickson in Taylor.

He said:

It is essential...to recognize that, as an instrument especially designed to prevent the spread of prejudice and to foster tolerance and equality in the community, the Canadian Human Rights Act is very different from the Criminal Code. The aim of human rights legislation, and of s. 13(1), is not to bring the full force of the state's power against a blameworthy individual for the purpose of imposing punishment. Instead, provisions found in human rights statutes generally operate in a less confrontational manner, allowing for a conciliatory settlement if possible and, where discrimination exists, gearing remedial responses more towards compensating the victim.

I will not argue with a lot of the evidence to suggest that may indeed not be how section 13 has been functioning under the Canadian Human Rights Act. I do agree that there have been procedural abuses to the point that many seem to be willing to give up on section 13. However, as my colleague, the justice critic, said on numerous occasions in the committee, we should not be throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Therefore, I, and I hope most of my colleagues, will be opposing this private member's bill, but I recognize that it is likely to pass. Therefore, I think it is extremely important that we keep the record of witnesses firmly in mind for purposes of going forward.

If the bill does pass, we all should be open to some kind of revisiting of this issue to build back up the appropriate protections within the Canadian Human Rights Act or possibly be open to some other civil remedy at the federal level with respect to the telecommunications issues that section 13(1) deals with. Given that there is a one-year delay in the private member's bill before us, we could have some time and some space for that kind of approach, especially if the government were to co-operate. I would personally be very happy to commit resources and time to working in a multi-party way and treating seriously the kinds of suggestions we heard in the committee and the other suggestions that we know must also be out there to make a new federal civil remedy work.

In this respect, it is really important to note that no witness before us, not a single witness, referred to the content of section 13 itself or decisions made by tribunals under section 13 as being the problem. All were supportive of the fact that the actual phraseology and what the tribunals had done with it, almost always limiting themselves to extreme cases of hatred, was fine. However, everybody focused on different versions of a set of procedural problems that had led to abuse, which people felt was very real.

We are in the situation, I believe, of being about to repeal something without anything adequate to replace it. Frankly, the Criminal Code provision, section 319, is not adequate. We heard that in committee. We know that from a bunch of studies. It is not doing the job. Very little is prosecuted under it for a variety of reasons. Basically, the result is we will have a repeal of a civil remedy and a completely inadequate criminal replacement.

It is important to reiterate the point made by one of the witnesses from B'nai Brith, Mr. Kurz, legal counsel, who in one of our sessions was probably the most convinced that this was a fait accompli, that it would go ahead. Therefore, he saw no mileage in trying to have a more complex amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act through the sponsor with the assistance of the government. However, he did want to emphasize that every section 13 decision was “unassailable” from his point of view. That is really important because some of the questions being asked from within the committee, and I think some of the tenor of my hon. colleague's presentation here tonight, suggests that the real problem is section 13 itself and how it unduly infringes on freedom of expression, which frankly I feel is the incorrect argument. I think it is the procedural and institutional flaws in how section 13 has been enforced that is the problem and that needs to be what we seek to rectify after this bill passes.

We would also do well to recall and heed the words of Mr. David Matas, who also appeared on behalf of B'nai Brith, when he said:

My view is that in order to combat hate speech effectively, you need a range of remedies. The first is simply education and advocacy and information. The notion that it has to be either the Criminal Code or nothing I think gets us to a situation where nothing ends up being done, because the Criminal Code is too draconian.

It is not simply the fact that the Criminal Code may be ineffective for what it is intended to be, but that it may not go to the heart of the kinds of reasons we have human rights codes in the first place.

I would like to end by saying that there was quite a bit of goodwill toward the last part of the committee sessions about looking forward to possibly rebuilding a civil remedy. Almost all of the witnesses from B'nai Brith and Mr. Freiman spoke in those terms. I know the government is focusing mostly on possible changes to the Criminal Code, but I think we have to keep open the possibility of a new civil remedy.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

May 30th, 2012 / 6:40 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Mount Royal, QC

Madam Speaker, we are here tonight to debate Bill C-304, a bill which, if passed, would repeal section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, thereby eliminating civil remedies for protection against hate speech in this country, particularly as regarding the exploding and assaultive hate speech and incitement on the Internet, of which insufficient reference, understandably given the limitations of time, has been made at these debates.

I do not wish to reiterate that which I have elaborated upon previously in the House and in committee. Suffice it to say that I believe that this initiative, while well-intentioned, is nonetheless ill-considered, uninformed and a prejudicial move in the wrong direction. Simply put, without effective recourse against hate and group-vilifying speech, we are both ignoring and betraying the lessons of history regarding the dangers of assaultive speech. The arguments of some in this place in support of a repeal, frankly, have made a mockery of our constitutional law, arguments regarding free speech and, indeed, the related jurisprudence, in particular Supreme Court jurisprudence.

I note that this debate takes place at an interesting confluence of events. It is the 30th anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, when we celebrate a doctrine that rightly enshrines freedom of expression. The mover of the bill rightly characterized it as a cornerstone of democracy, but the Supreme Court has held, and this is the important point, that it is not an absolute right, although very often the mover has spoken of it as if it were.

It is one where the freedom of expression has to be read in the light of and in relation to section 1 of the charter and the limitations on hate speech and, as the Supreme Court put it, that are demonstrably justified to promote and protect equality, and that is the purpose of this civil remedy: to guard against violations of section 27 and assaults on our multicultural heritage; to implement our international legal obligations where racist hate speech is held to be outside the ambit of protected speech; most important, and this has been missing entirely from the member's appreciation and those supporting the bill, to guard against assaults upon the very values underlying free speech itself, as the Supreme Court has put it, the search for truth, individual autonomy, equality and democratic participation.

We are also in the aftermath of the month of April, which T. S. Eliot famously described as “the cruellest month”. Indeed, we marked in April the anniversaries of the Rwandan genocide, Yom ha-Shoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, as well as the anniversaries of the Armenian genocide and the Srebrenica massacre, all of which began in April. In the United States and other jurisdictions, April has been designated as a genocide awareness and prevention month.

Indeed, the Supreme Court of Canada has itself recognized the dangers of hate speech in the three causes célèbres of the Supreme Court in the Keegstra case, the Smith and Andrews case and the Taylor case, all of which spoke of the danger that this hate speech can take us down the road to such atrocities, reminding us that the Supreme Court recognized that the Holocaust did not begin in the gas chambers; it began with words. As the court put it, “These are the catastrophic effects of racism. These are the chilling facts of history”.

Moreover, B'nai Brith's 2011 “Audit of Antisemitic Incidents” concluded that in the last 10 years there has been an almost threefold increase in reported hate-related incidents in Canada since 2002. I raise this because, as history has taught us only too well, while it may begin with Jews, it does not end with Jews. Anti-Semitism is the canary in the mine shaft of evil which can threaten us all, and so does assaultive speech against vulnerable and targeted minorities, whoever these identifiable groups may be.

While the government insists that these are so-called victimless crimes, the truth is, the courts have found in their harms-based rationale for upholding the constitutionality of such legislation, and indeed, that includes the Cohen commission. The mover spoke as if the Cohen commission did not support this civil remedy. I want to put it on the record that the Cohen commission did support this civil remedy, as it did support the criminal remedy, but realized that these are different remedies by the way in which we address and redress the fundamental threat of assaultive speech, that there is pain and suffering, discrimination and exclusion among those vulnerable communities who are so targeted.

Accordingly, if we are not vigilant in guarding against such assaultive and group-vilifying speech, words can become actions and these actions may themselves have harmful, if not deadly, consequences.

It has been suggested in this debate that somehow free speech is an absolute right or that it ought to be.

I would remind colleagues that even in the United States, the home of the First Amendment doctrine, there are prohibitions against perjury, to protect the right to a fair trial; prohibitions against treasonable speech, to protect national security; prohibitions against pornography, to protect the human dignity of women and children; prohibitions respecting libellous and defamatory speech, to protect privacy and reputation; prohibitions against misleading advertising, to protect consumers. I could go on.

Know that those who have moved this appreciate that in supporting the criminal law remedy they are themselves acknowledging that free speech is not an absolute right.

Therefore, what we are arguing about is not the issue of protecting free speech. We all agree about the protection of free speech. We all agree that it is the cornerstone of democracy. The question is: How do we counteract assaultive hate speech? The criminal law remedy is one remedy but the civil remedy, a 35-year-old remedy, is yet another.

Simply put, the provisions against hate speech partake in this genre of limitations to protect the rights of individuals and minorities against group-vilifying speech and to protect against inequality, and here the civil remedy comes in, resulting from the discriminatory hate practices that reduce the standing and status of targeted individuals and groups in society and indeed to protect, as I mentioned, not only the very values underlying free speech but the very values, as the Supreme Court put it, that constitute a free and democratic society such as Canada.

Some listening may wonder why the Criminal Code provision is not enough. Simply put, a criminal remedy is not a one-size-fits-all option. It is, in fact, a remedy that should be used restrictively and sparingly. In fact, it is only sparingly invoked.

Most important, in addition to the fact that it should be used sparingly, the problem is that it does not allow for alternative, creative or adaptive remedies, such as those requiring education, outreach or engaging with those affected, what I would call a restorative justice approach to combating hate speech, unlike the criminal law remedy which characterizes it as a crime against the state but where the civil remedy can characterize it as a demonstrable harm to the targeted community as a discriminatory practice, as an equality rights issue and that which can only be addressed within the framework of a civil remedy.

None of this is intended to suggest that section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act is ideal, appropriate or effective in its present form. Indeed, I and others have identified numerous flaws with it and have made suggestions for its improvement, including amendments I tabled at committee.

However, the issue is that the government refuses to even consider any reform or amendment. Indeed, it asserts that repeal is the only option, ignoring why the section was enacted to begin with, why it is still necessary today and in what ways it might be reformed and improved through principled amendment.

I will outline just a few such options. We could exclude frivolous claims by requiring the consent of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada before proceeding, not unlike what we do with the criminal law remedy at this time. We could restrict actions so as to allow the commission to dismiss matters that are before it and another tribunal so as to prevent SLAPPs and vexatious efforts, including those of persons who presently, regrettably, under the present law, file the same claim in multiple jurisdictions. We could establish different rules of procedure and evidentiary considerations for the commission to address the concerns that the member who has moved the bill has properly raised. We could change costs and allow for certain types of orders to be mandated. We could appreciate the important role of section 13 in the Internet age.

Indeed, there are a panoply of options on the table but the government flat out refuses to consider any of them.

I want to be clear why I am using the word “government”, as I move to a close, when debating what has been presented as a private member's bill.

It is clear that this has been a government initiative, an element of the party platform as affirmed last June. Government members voted as a block always in committee. They refused to engage on the issue as a whole and refused to accept any amendments.

Indeed, I have to ask why the government advanced this as a private member's bill and not as a government bill. Perhaps it had certain misgivings about gauging this in the matter of public opinion and the like, arguably something it attempted it in relation to Motion No. 312, while also limiting discussion and debate throughout the introduction of this initiative as a private member's bill.

Simply put, the government is, to use the somewhat cliched expression used by my colleague, throwing the baby out, regrettably, with the bathwater. There are many principled reforms that could be made to section 13. Hate speech and incitement are increasing problems in Canada, particularly on the Internet, as a series of scholarly studies remind us, and we must ensure that there are both civil and criminal recourses at our disposal to address and redress these wrongs, as Mr. Matas and Mr. Freiman set forth in committee.

I will conclude by saying that, at the end of the day, the criminal law remedy is in place. It should and is only used sparingly. The civil law remedy is necessary for the protection of all the other values: equality, non-discrimination, protection against targeted minorities and the like. That is how we should go forward—

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

May 30th, 2012 / 7 p.m.
See context

NDP

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise again to speak about Bill C-304, which Kathleen Mahoney, a professor in the Faculty of Law of the University of Calgary and a member of the Royal Society of Canada, called a bill on the freedom of hateful expression.

We need clarification, because to associate this bill solely with freedom of expression is to forget what is protected by section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. It is sometimes good to remind ourselves of this, and I like to do so.

It must be the lawyer in me that likes to refer specifically to acts and bills. When I examine and analyze legislation, I always go over it with a fine tooth comb, and with an open mind, which is what my colleague from Westlock—St. Paul asked members of this House to do as they consider his bill.

At first glance, everyone who reads the bill tends to agree with it because it amends the Canadian Human Rights Act in order to protect certain freedoms, including the freedom of expression.

However, once again, the devil is in the details and in the drafting of the bill. We came across several problems during our in-depth consideration of the bill in committee. The witnesses drew attention to a number of problems. I think my colleagues from Mont-Royal and Toronto—Danforth did a good job of highlighting the problems. Nobody said they disagreed with the protection against hate speech because that is what section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act is trying to prevent. I do not think that anyone in this House is against this, even on the government side. Ultimately, their responses to our concerns always brought us back to the Criminal Code, specifically to section 319, which already provides for criminal charges against anyone engaged in this kind of behaviour.

Section 13 was not a major problem in the opinion of the witnesses, which really struck me, and, to use the words of the previous member, the section was not too vague. No witness said that it was. One only need read the jurisprudence developed by both the Supreme Court and the Human Rights Tribunal. Nobody came and told us that the decisions were inadequate or that people who had not engaged in hate speech had been found guilty under Canadian law.

What people invariably told us, which made them feel like giving up when it came to solving the section 13 problem, is that it required time and was very costly. They added that if somebody were to file an obviously futile, frivolous or completely ridiculous complaint, that there would be no tools in the legislation to enable the commission to dispose of the case swiftly.

According to those who specialize in defending people charged with uttering hate speech or encouraging this kind of speech as defined in section 13, the process can take five or six years and huge amounts of money.

I explained to the committee that I thought we were throwing out the baby with the bath water. That often happens with bills, whether they are government or private members' bills. To avoid one type of problem, the section is deleted in its entirety. That creates an enormous hole. I asked the member about that and the Green Party member asked the very same question. To date we have not had a response. This bill would repeal section 13, which states:

13. (1) 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 that person or those persons are identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.

Section 3 reads as follows:

For all purposes of this Act, the prohibited grounds of discrimination are race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability and conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered.

I repeat: it clearly mentions sex.

Let us now look at the Criminal Code, since the defence of the government and the Conservative Party at every stage has been based on the Criminal Code. Section 319 of the Criminal Code pertains to public incitement of hatred. I will not get into all of its shortcomings. It is not clear how crimes are prosecuted under section 319. What is worse, the identifiable groups are only those distinguished by colour, race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation. What about cases involving hate speech based on sex, on gender? They are not mentioned at all.

One element of protection for women has just been taken away—one that was essential because of how difficult it is to enforce a section of the Canadian Human Rights Act. I find that totally unacceptable. In committee, we made some progress with the Conservatives but not enough for them to listen to reason, to decide to wait before passing this bill or to decide to address the bill's shortcomings before continuing the debate.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

February 14th, 2012 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed an honour and a pleasure for me to continue my comments with respect to Bill C-304, an act to amend the section 13 of the Human Rights Code.

I will briefly sum up some of my observations. The last time I spoke, I commented on the importance of freedom of speech and how freedom of speech was one of the fundamental concepts that we enjoyed in western democracies such as Canada. However, some of the members opposite talked about the limits of freedom of speech, which I acknowledge they are there and they are important. The torts of slander and libel, criminal prosecution for perjury and the hate provisions of sections 318 to 320 of the Criminal Code I believe adequately form a check and balance on free speech that crosses the line, especially 318 and 320, which talk about hate speech.

What section 13 of the Human Rights Code purported to do was create a counterfeit right against hurt feelings. The sponsor of the bill has talked at some length about that not being a true right.

We need to be concerned as legislators of mechanisms that are designed to protect liberty which actually themselves become a threat to liberty. In my view, that is what we have with respect to section 13, which was intended to protect against hate speech on telephonic and electronically communicated messages. By that, we are really talking about the Internet in the modern age, which in and of itself has become a threat to free speech.

Ironically, there are media reports today of a situation in Saudi Arabia where a 23-year-old blogger has been sentenced to death for comments he blogged, partially on Twitter and in a blog, where he fancifully described an imaginary relationship that he had with the Mohammed. He described Mohammed more as a friend to him than as a deity. That offended the clerics in Saudi Arabia and this individual, for expressing those thoughts through his blog, has been sentenced to death.

Thankfully, the sanctions under section 13 of the Human Rights Code are much less tragic and severe than that which are imposed by the clerics in Saudi Arabia, but by analogy, members should be concerned that speech which some might find offensive is sanctionable. It is very much a difference of degree, not a difference of kind.

This place, Parliament, where we have unfettered free speech and cannot be subject to prosecution, has to deal with difficult issues from time to time. In fact, the last time the bill was before the House, almost at the exact same time there was a court case in British Columbia, where the Criminal Code sanctions against polygamy were under assault by an individual who had been charged with them.

The court in that case upheld the Criminal Code provisions banning polygamy in Canada, and in my view rightfully so, but it might have gone differently. The point is this chamber has to, from time to time, deal with contentious issues, issues that people believe strongly and they believe so because of their religion. Polygamy is an issue that some people subscribe to because of their faith.

If we are to have a fulsome debate on the definition of marriage, like this chamber had approximately eight years ago, it is impossible to do so without perhaps offending people and their religious values.

We have protection in this place, but what about the outside world? As we all know, the Internet and the social media have become the fluent marketplace of ideas, where people talk and comment and everyone who has a blog suddenly becomes an amateur journalist and an editorialist.

Almost all members of Parliament participate in these social media forms. I am on Twitter and Facebook, and I think most members are. These social media mechanisms have become important as we exchange ideas and engage public opinion to things that we are debating in the House.

It is hypocritical for members of the House not to support the bill. Section 13 prevents bloggers and people on the Internet from engaging in free speech as they could face prosecution simply because they offend somebody else's deeply held personal beliefs, such as freedom of religion.

I will close with a quote from one of my favourite prime ministers, the 13th prime minister of Canada, John Diefenbaker. When he introduced the Bill of Rights, he said:

I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country.This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold to myself and all mankind.

A Canadian free to speak without fear; that freedom ought to be extended to people who communicate via the Internet.

I encourage all members to support Bill C-304 and repeal section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

February 14th, 2012 / 5:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Mylène Freeman Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, the bill before us today unfortunately threatens the preservation of our flourishing pluralistic society. I say this because we can only truly have freedom when every individual of every community is able to participate in the public sphere without fear of confronting violence. This is the purpose of section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. It does not impose unreasonable limits on the freedom of expression. Rather, it is a balance of each individual's freedom to live in society without fear.

Hate speech insidiously reinforces prejudices. It is a practice of inequality that is inconsistent with freedom. That is, it inhibits individuals from reaching their own full potential, and therefore, I argue, inhibits our society from reaching its potential.

Disseminating messages of hate via telecommunications technology is dehumanizing. It reinforces prejudice, encourages hate, and may even prompt or be perceived to justify physical violence. Not just that, but messages of hate are themselves a sort of violence, a communication of widespread violence that causes harm to us all by dividing us through the act of dehumanizing others.

This is why it is necessary that we maintain section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. The commission deals with hatred, not with criminal acts of violence, and gives society's most vulnerable minority groups access to a mechanism of defending their rights as equal human beings.

Religious minorities, women, queer folk, visible minorities, persons with disabilities, recent immigrants, they are the ones who are most often targeted by the dissemination of hate, and are often the people who suffer from multiple forms of systemic inequality, including poverty and exclusion from the legal justice system. They may lack the financial and legal supports to persist in a legal case, and in the meantime, without section 13, their victimization would be allowed to continue unhindered.

This is why we have the Canadian Human Rights Act. It provides precipitous protection from dangerous violations of human rights abuses. It would not exist if those who needed protection were already being effectively protected.

Section 13 protects against images, words and opinions of hate, which is to say racism, targeted discrimination, homophobia, and grotesque and misleading imagery or information. This is a kind of violence and we need to be able to say as a society that we cannot accept this.

There needs to be a balance struck between the principles of free speech and protection from hate speech and propaganda. This is why we have a tribunal to inquire into reported incidents.

The law is specifically structured to account for the moral grey zone that can occur in cases of hate. When weighing the rights and freedoms of one person or group against another's, there must be room for variance and for each case to be adjudicated in its specificity. The Canadian Human Rights Act, including section 13, is a vehicle for exactly that process. If we allowed it to be disabled by Bill C-304, in cases where violence is being perpetrated victims would be unable to protect themselves using the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

Freedom of speech is not an unlimited freedom. The pursuit of liberty understood as self-realization requires the balancing and limiting of other freedoms, in this case, that of speech.

This debate is about the balance of freedoms and duties that we have as citizens. Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act represents a duty that we have to other citizens to not limit their freedoms. That is, it allows for people to not be discriminated against and therefore to realize their own purposes.

This is a form of liberty, and it is precisely the act of balancing this liberty with the freedom of speech that gives us the opportunity to live as a truly free and pluralistic society.

Yes, the Constitution protects freedom of expression, but it also protects the safety and liberty for all. Hate groups terrorize, threaten, stifle public participation and target the most vulnerable members of society.

I urge members of the House to consider the needs and rights of their constituents who are targeted by hate crimes before voting in favour of this legislation.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

February 14th, 2012 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-304 and offer my thoughts on why I oppose the repeal of section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, an opposition rooted in the collective responsibility of parliamentarians to eliminate hate speech in Canada. This responsibility does not begin and end with the prosecution of criminal cases of hate propaganda and incitement to genocide, as the member for Westlock—St. Paul and the Minister of Justice have suggested. The promotion of equality and minority rights obligates us to also ensure that an appropriate civil remedy exists for cases of hate speech that do not meet the criminal definition.

I am not suggesting that section 13 is perfect. Indeed, that section is problematic.

The main point I would like to make here today is that the principle behind maintaining section 13 deserves the support of all members. However, instead of repealing section 13, we should make the necessary changes to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, as that organization and the Canadian Bar Association have suggested.

We should be seriously asking ourselves why the Conservative government refuses to make the proposed changes and prefers instead to repeal section 13. I would also like to add that this debate is premature anyway, since the matter is still before the courts.

That is not to say that section 13 as currently written is without problems; it is not indeed. However, the central point I would like to make today is that the principle behind retaining section 13 is worthy of the support of members, and that rather than voting to repeal section 13, we should be making the necessary changes to the Canadian Human Rights Act, as suggested by various groups, including the Canadian Bar Association and the Canadian Human Rights Commission itself.

The summary of Bill C-304 explains:

This enactment amends the Canadian Human Rights Act by deleting sections 13 and 54 to ensure there is no infringement on freedom of expression guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I note there is nothing in the bill about the promotion of equality and minority rights.

In its written submission to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in January 2010, the Canadian Bar Association, CBA, explained the vital role that human rights commissions play in eliminating discrimination based on race, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, and other groups, and in advancing equality. The brief remarked:

Leading media outlets in this country have advocated the abolition of section 13 with no acknowledgement of the value the provision brings to enhancing civic discourse in Canadian society.

Of greater concern to the CBA is the fact that the debate surrounding the expediency of section 13 has become the proxy for an open assault on the very existence of an administrative framework to protect human rights in the country. Critics have decried human rights proceedings as “kangaroo courts” which provide only “drive through justice” and advocated that human rights tribunals and commissions should no longer be permitted to operate. We reject attacks of this kind and reiterate forcefully our support for the continued importance of the work undertaken by these human rights bodies to foster human rights in Canada.

When the member for Westlock—St. Paul spoke to this bill on November 22, 2011, he argued:

Freedom of speech is the bedrock upon which all other freedoms are built and, therefore, is too precious to leave under the thumb of censorship imposed by this system. Without freedom of speech, what good are our other freedoms, we may ask.

This argument, however, ignores the fact that there is no hierarchy of rights, as Barbara Hall, the chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, has said.

For its part, the CBA has explained that freedom of expression in Canada is not an absolute value and that the CBA endorses the view that a properly drawn civil prohibition against the propagation of hate speech is also a reasonable limitation on freedom of expression.

Put another way by my colleague, the member for Mount Royal, all free and democratic societies, including the United States, have recognized certain limitations on freedom of expression in the interest of protecting certain fundamental human values.

As members consider Bill C-304, they should remember three points.

First, as I have established, freedom of expression exists within the context of limitations. The charter itself in section 1 allows for limits on rights.

Second, the Supreme Court of Canada has already ruled on the constitutionality of section 13 in its 1990 decision in the Taylor case, in which the court concluded:

[Section] 13(1) is a justifiable limit on freedom of expression within the meaning of s. 1 of the Charter. Hate propaganda undermines the dignity and self-worth of minority racial and religious groups and erodes the tolerance and open-mindedness which are essential in a multicultural society. The purpose of s. 13(1) is to promote equality and to prevent the harm which hate propaganda causes to targeted groups. This is a pressing and substantial concern. It is of heightened importance because it is supported by other sections of the Charter, namely ss. 15 and 27, and by international human rights instruments to which Canada is signatory.

Third, while the Minister of Justice has argued that section 13 is not an appropriate or effective means for combatting hate propaganda and that the Criminal Code is the best vehicle to prosecute these crimes, the Criminal Code sections on hate speech and section 13 are intended to be complementary and serve different purposes.

Here is how the CBA explains it:

The criminal prohibition in section 319 of the Criminal Code sets an extremely onerous standard. This is appropriate since a criminal conviction for hate speech, like any other criminal offence, carries with it social stigma and a criminal record. Section 13 is for a different purpose (providing remedies to target groups for harm, fostering greater respect for target groups, and changing behaviour), and also applies to conduct that falls short of criminal behaviour but nevertheless poses harm to vulnerable groups.

The CBA concludes:

Given the importance of freedom of expression, it is appropriate that there be a range of options for society to respond to expression that causes harm. Criminal sanctions should be reserved for the worst cases, rather than the only option.

For these three reasons, I believe that a civil remedy for hate speech must continue to exist within human rights legislation. However, as I mentioned at the outset of my remarks, there are indeed legitimate concerns about section 13 as currently written. While there is not sufficient time to explain each one, I feel it is important to list the various amendments to the Canadian Human Rights Act that have been suggested.

As my colleague from Mount Royal has suggested, the CHRA could be amended to include a built-in filtering mechanism through the requirement of the consent of the Attorney General of Canada for launching any prosecution, as currently exists in the Criminal Code, to ensure that only the most serious cases go forward.

As the CBA suggests, complaints should only be made in one jurisdiction at a time instead of the current practice of simultaneous federal and provincial complaints.

Moreover, as the CHRC has suggested to Parliament, we could add a statutory definition of hatred and contempt in accordance with the definitions offered by the Supreme Court in the Taylor case, as well as a provision to allow for the early dismissal of a section 13 complaint that does not meet this definition.

An additional amendment could also allow for the costs to be awarded in cases of abuse of process. The right to face one's accuser could also be added to act. Finally, the current provision that allows the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal to assess penalties should be removed in order to retain the remedial, and not punitive, nature of human rights law.

I urge the members to chose this path and ask the government to amend section 13 rather than repeal it.

Last month, an intern in my office from Toulouse, France, Olivia-Kelly Lonkeu, gave a presentation on Bill C-304. In her remarks, she said the freedom of speech did not give the right to vilify and had to be used wisely without undermining Canadian values of equality, tolerance and fairness. To be free meant to be respected as well as to respect others, and in that sense one's freedom should not harm the freedom of another citizen. Simply put, one's personal freedom ends where another's begins.

I could not agree more.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

February 14th, 2012 / 6:05 p.m.
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Beauce
Québec

Conservative

Maxime Bernier Minister of State (Small Business and Tourism)

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise here today to support Bill C-304, introduced by my hon. colleague from Westlock—St. Paul. I would like to congratulate him on this bill. This member is standing up for our freedoms, particularly freedom of opinion and freedom of expression.

I can say that my political career has been somewhat tumultuous, but my goal has always been to defend individual freedom and responsibility. I am proud to be from Beauce, a region that promotes these values, which form the foundation of western society. Today we are speaking about individual freedom, and I am pleased to support this bill.

Freedom of expression is the essential foundation of a free and democratic society. We cannot reject this freedom of expression simply because we do not like what someone is saying about us or about society. We judge a society by its constitution and by its laws. I am proud to be Canadian. I am proud of the Canadian Constitution. In my political activities, I always try to act in a way that respects our Constitution.

We also have a charter, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Paragraph 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms defends and promotes freedom of opinion and freedom of expression. We need to listen to Canadians. Canadians care about respecting freedom of opinion and freedom of expression. If someone stands up and says something that I do not agree with, the most important thing for me, as a politician, is to be able to have a critical, open and honest debate and to inform the public. In our society, some people engage in hate speech and say discriminatory things about certain groups. Section 319 of the Criminal Code prohibits hate propaganda. The Criminal Code is the best tool for this. Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act will not achieve this.

I just heard the opposition member say that the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, had declared that section unconstitutional and had said that it would like to see changes to section 13. We would like to repeal it, because we know that the Criminal Code contains a provision, section 319, that will reassure Canadians when it comes to hate propaganda against particular groups.

Section 13 is too subjective. It does not give Canadians a general or a specific idea of what they should or should not say. The civil and criminal courts should determine that.

We have a provision that assures Canadians that hate propaganda will always be dealt with as it should be, under the Criminal Code.

Why repeal section 13? It is not a matter of criminal law. In the case of hate speech, you must prove that there was the intent to harm a group, the intent to incite violence, the intent to disturb the peace, and the intent to incite commission of a crime. Inciting violence against a group is a crime. Under section 13, the intent of the individual engaging in hate speech is not considered. For that reason, as a free and democratic society, we must repeal this section, which has been challenged in the courts on a number of occasions. Several cases have been cited in these debates. It is time to abolish this section, and it is our role, as legislators, to introduce legislation that promotes freedom of expression and to ensure that the courts have the tools to fight groups or individuals that communicate hate towards other groups.

Under the Criminal Code, it is an offence to incite hatred by communicating statements in any public place against an identifiable group where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace. It is also an offence to wilfully promote hatred against any identifiable group, other than in private conversation. That is why I feel very comfortable supporting my colleague's bill to repeal section 13 and to depend solely on the Criminal Code.

This is an important day for freedom of expression, and I hope that many of our colleagues opposite will share this point of view. We must promote freedom of expression, and it is possible to do so by repealing section 13. I am convinced that perpetrators of hate crime in Canada will be brought to justice under the Criminal Code.

A number of complaints have been filed under section 13 in an attempt to restrict freedom of expression. With the passage of this bill, we will be able to reassure Quebeckers and Canadians that their freedom of expression will remain protected. No one will be able to use section 13 to restrict their freedom of expression.

We must also reassure Canadians that hate speech against other groups will still be dealt with under the Criminal Code.

It is important to promote freedom of expression. That is an important part of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I have a very hard time understanding why some of the opposition members do not support this bill. This bill is critical to a democratic society, and our society depends on freedom of expression. We have to express ourselves here every day. We can express different points of view in the House. The opposition certainly shares different points of view on its vision for this country. We have useful debates, debates that Canadians need to be able to have in public without a sword of Damocles hanging over their heads. They should not fear being the subject of a commission inquiry because they have said things that some consider hateful but that are not hateful under the Criminal Code.

Today and in the days to come, by voting in favour of this bill, we will show Canadians that freedom of expression is important to us and that we will continue to protect it. As a politician who believes in individual freedom and responsibility, I certainly support my colleague's work and congratulate him on it. He is standing up for his constituents and defending values and principles underlying Canadian society. I am very proud to support his bill, as are the other members of my party. Today is a great day, and I hope that this bill will come into force as quickly as possible.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

February 14th, 2012 / 6:15 p.m.
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NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to speaking on Bill C-304. I have a great deal of experience with this in a number of ways, both here as a parliamentarian and at one period of time in my professional career as a lawyer.

In its simplicity, although Bill C-304 has other sections in it, it is really about the repeal of section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. Members have heard this from a number of speeches so far. Clearly on the part of the mover, and I would say generally by the Conservative Party, it is an attempt to appease some of their right-wing ideologues, in the media in particular. It is also in keeping with their right-wing ideology of a society that has no government intervention.

For those of us who support section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, it is about recognizing the nature of what Canada is, what it always has been. At its best, section 13 is what Canada is really about.

We hear demeaning comments from the right wing in this debate that it is really about minor sensitivities that are being offended. However, that is not what section 13 is about. It is about giving the Canadian Human Rights Commission the right to regulate and impose sanctions against people who are prepared to make statements in public, and the big debate more recently has been around telecommunications, statements that are on, and I quote from section 13(1):

...any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt by reason of the fact that that person or those persons are identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.

It is talking about statements in writing, over the Internet and electronically communicated that will identify groups and draw hatred and contempt to those groups. That is what section 13 is about. It is about prohibiting that type of behaviour.

We hear from the Conservative side that we can deal with this by the hate propaganda sections of the Criminal Code, specifically section 318. I know that section very well. To my knowledge, there has only been six cases that were ever prosecuted under that section. I successfully defended one of the charges.

I have to say that it is relatively easy to use section 318 in defence of all sorts of heinous types of conduct. However, depending on that section to protect vulnerable groups who are the subject of contempt and hatred is like using the mace to tap in a small nail. It is a gross overreach.

Section 318 came into effect sometime in the late 1960s or early 1970s. It has been in existence for over 40 years now, but has only been used six times, and the penalties are quite severe. It requires that every case be approved by the attorney general of the province to allow it to be used.

In defence of section 13, it is a mechanism to help protect vulnerable groups in our society. I think of members of the Jewish community who have historically been a target for anti-Semitic attacks. More recently, members of the Islamic community has been subject to attacks because of their faith. I think of members of Afro-Canadian communities who have a lengthy history of being attacked because of the colour of their skin or continent that they come from. We can go down the list.

There are problems with the Canadian Human Rights Act, but they can be fixed. Amendments could be brought forward that would reform it. We need to develop the jurisprudence around this section. We have not done that very well up to this point, I will admit, but that can be remedied.

We need two levels. We need the Criminal Code for the more severe types of hate propaganda and so section 318 should remain. It is working for the purpose for which it was designed. However, it is not designed to deal with this type of hatred or contempt brought against identifiable groups. Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act is to be used for that purpose. We should be supporting it, maybe with some reform.

We need two tiers in order to have a free society for individuals who are regularly targeted by anti-Semitic or anti-Islamic people. We can include homophobia as well. There are a number of areas where the language used draws hatred and contempt to an identifiable group. Canadians as a society are saying no, that it not the kind of society we want. We want an organization or tribunal to be able to express our contempt for those who are prepared to do that, put a stop to the use of that kind of material and impose some type of penalty to express the revulsion that society feels for people who are prepared to use discriminatory, hateful language against other identifiable groups in our society. We need both tiers.

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, I am finding it very distracting.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

February 14th, 2012 / 6:25 p.m.
See context

St. Catharines
Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I have waited all day for the opportunity to speak to this bill. I am certainly honoured to speak to Bill C-304, put forward by the member for Westlock—St. Paul. I recall, as will the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, back in the 39th Parliament, when he and I both served on the justice committee, I had moved a motion to have the committee do a complete and fulsome review of section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act for the very reason we are speaking about today, to repeal that portion of the act.

When I was appointed as parliamentary secretary, I was no longer able to sit on the justice committee. Obviously, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, I had new responsibilities.

I certainly want to congratulate the member for Westlock—St. Paul. Upon being named to the justice committee in the 40th Parliament, he immediately picked up the issue, pursued it and moved forward with it. After three years of doing a lot of work on the issue he has introduced his private member's bill. I commend him for his efforts in pushing forward on this very important legislation as a private member. We all know how few private members' bills actually move forward and receive royal assent and are enacted. It is a special opportunity that he has. He has done a tremendous job to get his bill this far.

I also want to speak to the point the member for Windsor—Tecumseh made. He spoke about having two tiers when it came to freedom of speech, that there somehow needs to be two tiers in terms of deciding what is or is not hate speech. I find that phrase to be extremely ironic when it is the belief of both the member and his party that there should not be a two-tier health care system, that there only needs to be one tier, that being the health care system we now have in this country which all of us believe in. However, when it comes to freedom of speech, two tiers is not only something he spoke about but something he thinks needs to exist. I think it is a dichotomy. I would hope the member for Windsor--Tecumseh would think a bit about the statement he made this afternoon in terms of, in one case two tiers not being okay yet being acceptable in another case. Either it is or it is not. He cannot have it both ways.

The Canadian Human Rights Act is intended to prevent and resolve cases of discrimination. It is not criminal law. Yet section 13 has subjected many Canadians to a quasi-judicial process for making statements that are not hate speech. Section 13 is simply not an appropriate or effective means for combatting hate propaganda. The Criminal Code is the best vehicle to do so. Intentional wrongdoing is within the scope of criminal law and there are already hate propaganda offences within our Criminal Code. It is an offence to incite hatred by communicating statements in any public place against any identifiable group where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace.

It is also an offence to wilfully promote hatred by communicating statements, other than in private conversation, against any identifiable group. These are criminal offences. They are committed only if the speaker acts with criminal intent. Because they are criminal offences, they carry the full procedural protections of the criminal law, the due process that section 13 simply lacks.

Under similar provincial legislation, John Fulton, a business owner in my riding of St. Catharines, was accused of discrimination. The charges were eventually dropped against him but John was left with legal bills of roughly $150,000 and he did not have the chance to defend himself. He was never given that opportunity. In fact, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal then said that he had no right to compensation for legal expenses, even though the charges and allegations were completely and utterly dismissed.

Section 13 puts too much onus on defendants. Defendants are not always permitted to face their accusers. Normal standards for the validity of evidence do not apply. The government funds the plaintiff but the defendant is left to himself or herself. Most disturbingly, the absolute truth is not an acceptable defence. With all of these advantages, people have been able to plainly and simply take advantage of this part of the act. Who and what is censored by section 13 depends on who has the time and resources needed to pursue a section 13 complaint.

If the point of a section 13 complaint is only to pursue the speaker, then this should be done in a more formal system with better procedural safeguards. I am standing in this House to ensure that the people of St. Catharines, people like John Fulton, do not have their life and reputation damaged by this well-intentioned but seriously flawed legislation.

We all recognize that a law against hate propaganda is necessary to prevent the evils of discrimination. That exists within the Criminal Code. Section 319 of the Criminal Code contains two hate propaganda offences. These offences do not cover as many groups as section 13. For example, hate speech based on national origin, age, sex and mental or physical disability is not covered. It is for this reason that our government introduced an amendment to fill this gap. We are amending section 319 of the Criminal Code to add national origin, age, sex and mental or physical disability to the definition of identifiable groups.

I had an opportunity to speak to section 319 of the Criminal Code very recently. This means that it would now be a criminal offence to publicly incite and wilfully promote hatred based on these grounds. This means that our government is protecting the rights of minorities while preserving the right of free speech.

Dean Steacy, the lead investigator at the Human Rights Commission, once testified that freedom of speech was not given any value. That is unacceptable. The best way to fight bigotry is to ensure that we protect and enhance our fundamental freedoms. We must especially protect freedom of speech, which is the very bedrock of our parliamentary democracy and the democracy of this country.

In practice, section 13 is conflicted with section 2(b) of the Charter of Rights which guarantees that everyone has freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression. While charter rights are subject to reasonable limits prescribed by law, section 13 does not clearly describe these limits and this has led to highly subjective interpretations of freedom of expression.

The wording in the Human Rights Act leaves it so unclear as to what constitutes an act of hatred or contempt that former Liberal member of Parliament, Keith Martin, rightly described it as “a hole you could drive a Mack truck through”. This is why section 13's overly broad hate speech provision was ruled to be unconstitutional in 2009.

We need the Canadian Human Rights Act to preserve our rights, not to take them away. We cannot allow one badly written section to undermine a defendant's right to due process and the free speech of every Canadian.

On behalf of people, like John Fulton, who have had their rights challenged by the Human Rights Commission, I ask all members of this House, regardless of party and partisanship, because it speaks to the freedom, the very bedrock of our democracy, to support Bill C-304. We will create a system where charter rights like freedom of expression and due process are valued and minorities are protected by our Criminal Code.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

February 14th, 2012 / 6:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Brian Storseth Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Mr. Speaker, I know the member for Malpeque does not like open and free debates. That is why he tried to hold western Canadian farmers away from freedom for so many years.

I will now take the time to address some of the concerns of opposition members.

Members of the Liberal Party have come forward today and said that section 13 is very important and that protecting against hate speeches is critically important, but that it is not so important that we should actually have any penalties for those who break it. That is actually what the Liberals came forward today and said.

Every member of the NDP caucus who has stood has used the excuse that the burden of proof under the Criminal Code of Canada is too great and that it is too complex. They propose that we have two tiers of hate speech. I, for one, do not necessarily understand that. I do not understand how we can have one tier of hate speech that is worse than another tier of hate speech.

When we talk about the burden of proof and trying to make it easier, what we are giving up as Canadians are some of our natural rights as Canadians. What they are asking Canadians to give up is the right to an attorney, the right to a speedy and fair trial, and the right to face our accuser. Heck, they are even saying that we should not have the right to defend ourselves with the truth, that the truth should not be a defence in this country.

When my constituents hear about this and they hear about these quasi-judicial courts, they are absolutely appalled. That is why I believe it is important that we, as Canadians, stand up and defend our civil liberties and say that it is time to repeal section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act and ensure that these types of trials happen in an open, fair and transparent system called the Criminal Code of Canada where there are checks and balances that Canadians have already approved.

The core message of Bill C-304 is protecting freedom.

The last thing I will address is the hesitancy on the opposition benches. I know there are a lot of new members of Parliament in this place but when I look at the weak arguments of burden of proof I see people who have already been told by their whip how they will vote so they need to formulate a reason for voting against it.

What I would ask members on the other side to do is to please throw off the shackles of their whip. This is a private member's bill. I would ask them to please stand and vote the conscience of their constituents. I have consulted my constituents on this bill. I hope all members will consult their constituents before they take the time to vote on this because protecting our freedom of speech is one of the greatest things we can do in this country.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

November 22nd, 2011 / 6:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Brian Storseth Westlock—St. Paul, AB

moved that Bill C-304, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act (protecting freedom), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to be here to present a bill that is very near and dear to my heart and to the House of Commons.

I would like to begin by first thanking the people of Westlock--St. Paul for the trust that they have placed in me in a third consecutive election to bring forward their concerns in this august chamber.

I would also like to thank my friends and family for their support and dedication over the last six years; my parents for their willingness to always pitch in and help; my children, Ayden and Eastin, for their endless patience and love; and, most importantly, my wife Amel, who is my best friend and the rock that anchors our family. Without their love and support, this job would be so much more difficult.

I would also like to thank my colleagues, both past and present, who have stepped forward to support Bill C-304, protecting freedom.

While my bill will have some technical amendments at committee stage, it would help to protect and enhance our most fundamental freedom, and that is the freedom of expression and speech. As George Washington said, “If the freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter”.

Truly, without freedom of speech, what is the use of any other freedoms, such as the freedom of assembly or the freedom of religion?

The freedom of speech is the bedrock that all other freedoms are built on. This, along with the concept of natural justice and due process, has been woven into the fabric of our great country over the last 144 years. As we were reminded only a few short days ago during Remembrance Day, tens of thousands of Canadians have given their lives to protect these fundamental freedoms. That is why I stand before the House today.

Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act eats away at this fundamental freedom. Most people are shocked when I explain to them that in Canada, right here in our own country, a person can be investigated under a section 13 complaint for having likely exposed a person or persons to hatred or contempt by reason of the fact that the person or persons are identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.

The key word is “likely” to have exposed. I think we can all agree that this is a very subjective and unnecessarily vague definition, not one of the narrowly defined legal definitions that would be far more appropriate for this clause. This is where section 13 truly fails to make a distinction between real hate speech and what I often term as “hurt speech”, or speech that is simply offensive.

This means that if someone has offended somebody and is investigated under section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, intent is not a defence. Truth is no longer a defence. The person would no longer have the right to due process, the right to a speedy trial, or even the right to a lawyer to defend himself or herself. In fact, in 90% of the human rights investigations under the Canadian Human Rights Act under section 13, the defendants do not even have legal advice, because they simply cannot afford it. When the people of Westlock--St. Paul hear about this, they are shocked. This is simply not the Canadian way.

Facing intense criticism in 2008, the Canadian Human Rights Commission hand-picked Professor Richard Moon to provide an evaluation of section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. On page 31 of his report, in regard to the repeal of section 13 and reliance on the Criminal Code hate speech provisions, Dr. Moon states:

The principal recommendation of this report is that section 13 be repealed so that the censorship of Internet hate speech is dealt with exclusively by the criminal law.

This recommendation was dismissed by the Canadian Human Rights Commission, which in turn provided a list of recommended amendments to Parliament in 2009, none of which has been implemented to date. Thus, even the Canadian Human Rights Commission has admitted with its own recommended amendments that there are serious flaws within section 13.

Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act has been a contentious topic for a number of years now, and it has been widely acknowledged that it does, in fact, impede paragraph 2(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which states that everyone has the fundamental freedom to “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication”.

This conflict between section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act and paragraph 2(b) of the charter has been reaffirmed by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, which found that section 13 was in fact unconstitutional in September 2009.

A common argument in favour of section 13's right to censorship and its constitutionality is the overruling powers provided by section 1 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, an argument that I am sure the opponents of my bill will bring forward.

Section 1 does provide a provision within the charter to ensure that all guaranteed rights and freedoms are subject to:

...such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

There are but a few issues with applying this provision to section 13.

Most importantly, section 13 lacks the ability to demonstrably justify the limits that it imposes on our society. It does not define the difference between hate speech as opposed to hurt feelings and offensive speech.

Second, how can a loosely written, highly subjective, vague law such as section 13 override the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in a free and truly democratic society?

Section 13, which is intended to protect people from extreme acts of discrimination with regard to hate messages, as previously defined by the Supreme Court of Canada, has instead been used to address differing values or opinions and impedes one of the most basic civil liberties that we hold dear to our hearts, the freedom of expression.

I believe the true issue of debate here is this: at what point and to what extent is censorship justified in Canada today?

As I debate this question, I think of my good friend and constituent Bob Herrick, from Waskatenau, Alberta.

Bob is a very bright and very successful man who, like many in his generation, has had a tremendous life and tremendous experiences to go along with it. He holds some very diverse opinions. No matter what topic we are discussing, from hunting to political philosophy, Bob loves to test our convictions and boundaries. Often while trying to challenge someone's assertions, Bob will go well beyond political correctness and often be even a little bit offensive. It is his ability and his freedom to push the limits of political correctness, however, that truly test the merit of our own beliefs. In society, when we lose the ability to test limits for freedom of expression, we also lose the ability to grow and adapt peacefully as a country.

It is through freedom of speech and expression that we change governments here in Canada, not through riots and revolts. This is one of the unique factors that sets us apart from many countries in the world.

Women such as Nellie McClung gained the right to vote by testing societal norms through expression and freedom of speech.

Layer by layer, brick by brick, our country has grown and successfully developed by utilizing and enhancing our fundamental freedoms. Today that we must continue to fight the tyrannical nature of the bureaucracy to censor free speech and to tell us what boundaries should be placed on our society and what rights we have as individuals.

One might ask how we can ensure individual freedom of speech and at the same time protect people and identifiable groups from direct harm if we repeal section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. The answer to the question is that we must direct these complaints to a fair, open and transparent judicial system, one that has been tested for hundreds of years within our own country.

With the repealing of section 13, individuals would still have recourse through both the civil and criminal justice systems. Sections 318 to 320 of the Criminal Code provide protection for identifiable groups when public communications invite hatred or harm against them. The continued use of the Criminal Code to address hate messaging would ensure that all individuals would be protected from threatening discriminatory acts while preserving the fundamental right to freedom of expression in our country.

An integral component of the Criminal Code is the need for the Attorney General to approve a claim. This prevents frivolous claims or claims made because an expression merely offended another individual.

It is also important to note that the Criminal Code provides basic provisions to the defendant that are not available through the Canadian Human Rights Act. I repeat. The provisions I am about to talk about are not actually available to Canadians under the Canadian Human Rights Act. These are provisions such as allowable defences; the right to face one's accuser; the right for the defendant to recover costs if a claim is dismissed; and the right to an open, fair and transparent trial.

Those are just a few of the basic liberties available under the Criminal Code. This is a system that has been tried and tested, a system with checks and balances and a system with which our society has entrusted its fundamental freedoms and has seen fit to enforce the rule of law in our country.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy described it best when he said:

We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.

Freedom of speech and the use of censorship on that freedom is not a matter to be taken lightly and should be entered into with the utmost of caution. That is why I personally find it highly alarming for our Canadian human rights investigator, someone entrusted as a gatekeeper of our fundamental freedoms, this valued freedom of speech in Canada, to claim it merely to be an American concept.

This is precisely the mentality that section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act is harbouring and just one more example of how unfit section 13 and the commission are to handle any level of power to censor speech in our country.

Freedom of speech is just as valued here in Canada. In fact, it is the only real tool that free and democratic societies like our own have to fight bigotry and ignorance. Any imposed censorship on this freedom must be taken very seriously and not met with casual disregard.

The solution here is not to fiddle with a broken, repetitive and unnecessary system. I believe the solution is to use the laws we already have and provide authorities with the tools and support necessary to properly and carefully enforce these laws.

The government has already announced that support to enhance the ability of the Criminal Code to better address hate messaging. This step, as well as the one year implementation period in my bill, would ensure the successful transition to a system in which true democracy and freedom of speech can thrive.

It is time we retract the power entrusted to the quasi-judicial bureaucratic system to deal with hate messaging in prevent the future abuse of the system. Freedom of speech is the bedrock upon which all other freedoms are built and, therefore, is too precious to leave under the thumb of censorship imposed by this system. Without freedom of speech, what good are our other freedoms, we may ask.

Finally, I would like to encourage all of my colleagues to stand up and protect our fundamental freedoms, the same freedoms for which we have asked our soldiers to put their lives on the line to protect time and time again. This truly is not an issue of blue versus orange versus red. This is an issue of freedom, transparency and balance for all Canadians.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

November 22nd, 2011 / 6:40 p.m.
See context

NDP

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like the members opposite to be as respectful of the right to freedom of expression as they have such little respect for the right to debate. The Conservatives' like freedom of expression, but do not really like debates, as they are constantly shutting us down. At times we do have to question the logic and the merits of Conservative positions.

I would like to pose a question to the member who introduced Bill C-304. Being cognizant—at least I hope he is—of the different burdens of proof in the Criminal Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, does he not think that eliminating recourse to section 13 of the Charter increases the burden of proof and makes it difficult to have any recourse against hate propaganda?

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

November 22nd, 2011 / 6:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Brian Storseth Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. minister not only for his gracious words but his dedication to freedom of speech, freedom of religion and assembly, which he has fought for his entire political career.

He is absolutely correct. Bill C-304, protecting freedom, is not about left versus right. This has support from the Muslim Canadian Congress, civil libertarian groups and journalists across the political spectrum. The only thing lacking today is support throughout the House of Commons. I would like to see all members of Parliament set their partisanship aside and vote on an issue like this with their own principles rather than what the party whip wants them to do.

At the end of the day, it is debates like this that we need to have in a respectful fashion, but Canadians also expect us to vote our consciences when it comes to these types of issues. That is why it is so very important that we not only keep this debate respectful but that we also engage in an open, honest and transparent debate.

Canadian Human Rights Act
Private Members' Business

November 22nd, 2011 / 6:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

Madam Speaker, I am not really convinced by my colleague's answer to my question, but I am very open to debate in the House, to open and willing debate by those who wish to express their opinion about an issue. A number of important questions were raised in the House and they were all quickly dismissed by the government.

I am willing to believe that this bill is sponsored by a member who is not a minister, parliamentary secretary or other government member, but that does not mean there is not a problem in the House. People are constantly being prevented from debating. I was just informed that we will be voting tomorrow, once again, to limit debate at third reading. We come to the House and are told that we will be debating a certain issue. Bills are introduced. Sometimes the bills are very lengthy and require examination from different perspectives. However, as soon as there is an objection, limits are imposed on the time for debate. At second reading, we are told that we can debate the bill during the clause-by-clause study in committee. I just came from a committee meeting studying Bill C-10. We are practically being subjected to closure again in order to end the clause-by-clause study. We are talking about 208 clauses in a bill that will fundamentally change many things.

We have been told this evening by someone opposite that Bill C-304 is being introduced to protect freedom of speech. I have a great deal of difficulty believing words like that coming from anyone on the government bench and believing in their sincerity.

The people watching us are entitled to know what Bill C-304 is all about. Basically, it repeals section 13 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which prohibits hate speech.

This section was deemed to be consistent with the law by the Supreme Court. A few years ago there was a decision by a commission. It would follow the normal course. Since then, it seems to have put a chill on everyone. However, the Supreme Court had already ruled in Taylor that section 13 was within the law and that it was required in a free and democratic society.

It is important to understand that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms imposes limits on each right and each freedom. For one person, it is a right and for another, their right ends where the other person's begins.

The government has to stop scaring people, which is another one of its specialities. It is scaring people and leading them to believe that good citizens will be cheerfully brought before the courts to have their right to freedom of expression challenged and that it will cost them a fortune. There have not been tons of grievances. It is not as though everyone is running to the Human Rights Commission to file a grievance against someone for hate speech under section 13. I repeat: hate speech. The law also defines hate speech. It is not a small burden of proof. It is not just telling someone that you do not like the way they look. That would certainly not be considered hate speech.

However, I received a tweet asking me what I was going to do as the member for Gatineau about an issue that involved my former leader, who unfortunately passed away this summer, being compared to a member of the Gestapo and to Hitler by an Internet site called Park Avenue Gazette—not to give it publicity. It is so disgusting; it makes me sick to read things like that. People dig things up and use symbols from things that happened during the second world war and attribute it to people who are human beings. Imagine how those people or their families feel when they see such things.

We are always being told by the members opposite that the Criminal Code already provides for certain things. The member for Westlock—St. Paul did not answer my question.

He did not answer it, because the problem is that the burden of proof is significantly different if we rely strictly on the Criminal Code. The fact that there are remedies under a “permissible” provision and under the Criminal Code, which means indictments or summary conviction offences, as well as civil remedies or remedies under the charter is nothing new. That is the case here.

The Criminal Code is based on a different system of evidence. We can require proof beyond a reasonable doubt, while under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the burden of proof is somewhat less. There is a lot of window dressing involved to protect the freedom of expression. However, the freedom of expression does not give me the right to strongly criticize someone for any reason, to make that person feel like he is a nobody who does not really deserve to live.

Would that justify a remedy under the Criminal Code? I have serious doubts about this. Our crown prosecutors already have their hands full and they will have even more work with the government's Bill C-10. Therefore, I have a hard time imagining a crown prosecutor taking an interest in issues whose interpretation can vary depending on a number of things. The Canadian Human Rights Commission was a specialized organization responsible for examining a case and determining, before the matter would end up in court, whether there were grounds for complaint under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

We do not want that because many friends of the government—I am exaggerating here, let us just say some friends—not to mention reporters from western Canada, tried to get some things through and have been complaining for a long time that section 13 prevents them from saying everything they want to say. We live in Canada and I always thought that we should be respectful of one another, that we could disagree, but that we were not allowed to denigrate an individual. That is what this is about. Making someone feel like a nobody, sometimes in a systematic way, has nothing to do with freedom of expression.

I cannot believe that the Conservatives want to have anything to do with these sites that disparage francophones, people who believe in bilingualism and in the French language, and people who believe this country exists thanks to two nations, including the aboriginal nations. I cannot believe they want to wash their hands of this and allow people to say whatever they want. It would be like me saying my colleague here is a so-and-so, but it is no big deal because I have freedom of expression.

I agree that it is important to have this debate and I would never want to stop it from happening. I hope that as many people as possible will stand up and talk about this and reiterate loud and clear what the Supreme Court of Canada said in the Taylor decision.

When Chief Justice Dickson upheld the constitutional validity of section 13 in Taylor, he spoke on behalf of the Supreme Court. I will close on this, but I have so much more to say. Again, my freedom of expression will be kept in check because of the limited amount of time we have to talk about this. The following is an excerpt from that ruling:

Parliament's concern that the dissemination of hate propaganda is antithetical to the general aim of the Canadian Human Rights Act is not misplaced. The serious harm caused by messages of hatred was identified by the Special Committee on Hate Propaganda in Canada, commonly known as the Cohen Committee, in 1966. The Cohen Committee noted that individuals subjected to racial or religious hatred may suffer substantial psychological distress, the damaging consequences including a loss of self-esteem, feelings of anger and outrage and strong pressure to renounce cultural differences that mark them as distinct. This intensely painful reaction undoubtedly detracts from an individual's ability to, in the words of section 2 of the Act, "make for himself or herself the life that he or she is able and wishes to have". As well, the Committee observed that hate propaganda can operate to convince listeners, even if subtlety, that members of certain racial or religious groups are inferior.

I could go on about this at length. It is a great debate to be had and I hope Canada will not repeal section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.