OTTAWA, ON June 28, 2013 – Bill C-304, the private member’s bill repealing Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, passed in the Senate this week. The Section prohibited “the communication of hate messages by telephone or the Internet”. The inclusion of the Internet made it possible to target newspapers and journals through their online editions.
“We’re very pleased that Bill 304 has been passed in the Senate, as it has caused significant problems for freedom of expression, including expression of religious beliefs.” said League Executive Director Joanne McGarry. “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.
The League believes that human rights tribunals are not the appropriate forum for testing claims of hate speech. Criminal Code provisions regarding hate speech, as well as libel and slander laws, with charges tried in court, 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 Section 13 removed, hate speech claims can still be brought to human rights agencies in some provinces. The recent SCC decision regarding Bill Whatcott, for example, originated with a complaint to the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, and the Court upheld the agency’s right to hear hate speech complaints.
The League hopes that provincial tribunals will also be reformed so that the free expression of religious beliefs is protected.
Bill to axe Section 13 of Canadian Human Rights Act has received royal assent, Catholic Register, July 3, 2013
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