OTTAWA, ON June 8, 2012 – The Catholic Civil Rights League is pleased that Parliament has voted to repeal Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, as a result of a vote of 153 to 136 June 6.
Section 13, which prohibits hate speech on the Internet, (and Section 54, which prescribes penalties available), was the subject of a Private Members’ Motion by MP Brian Storseth (CPC – Westlock-St. Paul). Now that it has passed third and final reading, it will become law after Senate review, royal assent and a one-year implementation period.
Because Section 13 has been used to penalize the expression of unpopular opinions based on religious beliefs, including columns and articles written during the debates on same sex marriage, the League was active in calls for its repeal. Cases brought at the federal level included that against Catholic Insight magazine, which was forced to incur substantial defence costs in having the complaint dismissed, while the complainant faced little if any expense. Further publicity was afforded to a subsequent case against MacLean’s magazine commenced in 2006 for publishing a book excerpt from Mark Steyn, which complainants purported to be hateful to Muslims, and which was dismissed after a lengthy hearing.
“Human rights tribunals are not the appropriate forum for testing claims of hate speech,” said League Executive Director Joanne McGarry. “Criminal Code provisions regarding hate speech, libel and slander laws help ensure that complainant and defendant are on a level playing field with respect to costs, and that rules of evidence and procedure are followed.”
Even with the federal provision removed, hate speech claims can still be brought to human rights agencies in some provinces. The case against Bill Whatcott for distributing literature strongly critical of homosexual conduct , currently pending a decision from the Supreme Court of Canada, began with a complaint to the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission. The League filed an intervention in the appeal.