OTTAWA, Nov. 20, 2008 – The Catholic Civil Rights League today asked the federal government to introduce legislation in support of ending the investigation of free speech cases by the federal human rights commission, and additional charges in cases of violence against pregnant women.
In a letter to Prime Minister Harper, the League stated that while all Canadians appreciate the need to focus on economic issues in the upcoming parliamentary session, it hopes that two policy resolutions passed by the Conservative party at its recent convention will be followed up by legislation supported by all parties.
“Far too many people have faced drawn-out and costly human rights proceedings for the peaceable expression of controversial opinions based on their religious beliefs. Some of these cases have hit directly at freedom of the press as we have understood it historically. While few rights are absolute, fundamental Charter rights such as freedom of expression and freedom of religion should be challenged only rarely, and only within our court system where both sides are on an equal footing in terms of costs and rules of evidence.
“While Section 13 is not the only cause of the current injustices – some provincial tribunals also hear so-called hate speech cases – its repeal or significant reinterpretation would go a long way to solving them at the federal level, and would show some leadership.
“Cases of murder or deliberate violence where the offender knows the victim is pregnant plainly involve two victims and should be punished accordingly. The League has always supported legislative initiatives in this regard, and we hope you will take steps to address this legal void in the upcoming session.”
The League has supported Canadians who have faced human rights complaints for the peaceable expression or exercise of freedom of religion in publication or workplace issues since the late 90s, and has provided assistance in individual cases. It has repeatedly called on governments at the provincial and federal level to end the use of human rights tribunals in free speech cases.
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
Wording of the two resolutions passed at the Conservative party convention last weekend:
Policy 203: The Conservative Party supports legislation to remove authority from the Canadian Human Rights Commission and Tribunal to regulate, receive, investigate or adjudicate complaints related to Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.
Policy 207: The Conservative Party supports legislation to ensure that individuals who commit violence against a pregnant woman would face additional charges if her unborn child was killed or injured during the commission of a crime against the mother.
On Nov. 24, Professor Richard Moon released his independent review of the operations of hate speech provisions in the Canadian Human Rights Code. He reached substantially the same conclusion. Section 13, he said, should be repealed so that hate speech, narrowly defined, is a criminal matter for the courts, not the human rights tribunals. (Read independent review here.)
In his report, Prof. Moon recommends that the use of censorship by government should be confined to a narrow category of extreme expression, “that which threatens, advocates or justifies violence against the members of an identifiable group, even if the violence that is supported or threatened is not imminent.”
Professor Moon has reached the same conclusion about Section 13 as everyone else who has studied the matter in depth. His main recommendation is the repeal of Section 13, with a second set of recommendations geared to its substantial change if it is not repealed.
From a policy standpoint, the important thing now is that this report, like the policy resolutions and parliamentary motions before it, be followed with legislation to repeal Section 13. We encourage all our supporters to contact their MPs and ask them to support legislation in this regard.