OTTAWA, September 3, 2009 – The Catholic Civil Rights League today commented on the ruling by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal that Section 13, the controversial Internet hate speech section of the Canadian Human Rights Code, is inconsistent with the Charter right to free expression. The tribunal ruling, in the case of Marc Lemire, webmaster of freedomsite.org, is the first time that a free speech case that reached the tribunal has ended in acquittal.
The League is pleased with the impetus that this decision gives to removing or significantly revising Section 13. While we reject the white supremacist, anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant opinion on the website in question, the same section of the code has also been used to penalize the expression of viewpoints based on religious beliefs, including the case against Catholic Insight Magazine.
It is welcome news that an adjudicator of the tribunal has found Section 13 inconsistent with the freedom of speech guarantee in the Charter, but it remains to be seen if Parliament will strike down the provision. The League has asked for such action many times, as have numerous groups of journalists, civil liberties’ groups and others, most recently the Catholic Women’s League of Canada in a resolution at its annual convention.
In the decision, tribunal adjudicator Athanasios D. Hadjis wrote, “I have concluded that s.13 (1), in conjunction with ss 54(1) and (1.1), are inconsistent with s 2(b) of the Charter, which guarantees the freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression. The restriction imposed by these provisions is not a reasonable limit within the meaning of s.1 of the Charter. Since a formal declaration of invalidity is not a remedy available to the Tribunal…I will simply refuse to apply these provisions for the purposes of the complaint against Mr. Lemire and I will not issue any remedial order against him.”
The 107-page decision can be found at the tribunal’s website (chrt-tcdp.gc.ca).
Catholic Civil Rights League (www.ccrl.ca) assists in creating conditions within which Catholic teachings can be better understood, cooperates with other organizations in defending civil rights in Canada, and opposes defamation and discrimination against Catholics on the basis of their beliefs. CCRL was founded in 1985 as an independent lay organization and has chapters across Canada. The Catholic Civil Rights League is a Canadian non-profit organization entirely supported by the generosity of its members.
For further information: Joanne McGarry, Executive Director, 416-466-8244; firstname.lastname@example.org