OTTAWA, ON October 3, 2011 – The Catholic Civil Rights League has expressed its support for Bill C-304, introduced September 30 by MP Brian Storseth (CPC-Westlock-St. Paul), to repeal the section of the federal human rights code banning hate speech over the Internet.
Because Section 13 has been used to penalize the peaceable expression of opinion based on religious belief, the League has a long record of support for efforts to rescind or significantly rewrite it to protect freedom of religion and freedom of speech. Human rights code violations are heard by human rights tribunals, not courts. The case against Catholic Insight magazine is just one instance where the Section, and similar provisions in provincial human rights codes, has been used to penalize religious freedom.
“The hate speech provisions in the Criminal Code provide limits on expression that are sufficient in a democracy,” says Joanne McGarry, League executive director. “In a court the accuser and the accused are on a much more level playing field in terms of openness, rules of evidence and standards of proof. When this type of case is handled by a human rights tribunal, the burden of proof and almost all the cost falls to the accused.”
Although the Conservative party has passed a resolution to rescind the Section, no government bill to do so has been made in Parliament. In 2008, Richard Moon, a law professor at the University of Windsor, prepared a report for the Canadian Human Rights Commission concluding the section should be removed. His advice was never acted upon.
The following year, a member of a human rights tribunal said Section 13 violated the Charter, which put the bill in a state of limbo and eventually led to a review in federal court, with that decision expected in November.
In 2008, Keith Martin, then a Liberal MP, tried to remove Section 13 from the human rights code. He was in part reacting to a case in which author Mark Steyn and Maclean’s magazine were brought before a tribunal for allegedly promoting Islamaphobia.
– Review of Section 13 greatly needed, says League. February 13, 2009
– Saskatchewan hate speech provision must be struck, says League, August 11, 2011