Will Canada Repeal its Hate Speech Law?

November 23rd, 2011 at 10:01 am | 58 Comments |

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A virtue of minority governments in Canada is that the ruling party has got to pay attention to its Parliamentary opposition, drugstore and must negotiate compromises. A negative is that legislation can get mired in debate and nothing happens.

A virtue of majority governments is that worthwhile legislation that couldn’t be passed in minority days, purchase can get whistled through with neither fuss not fanfare.

A case in appoint is the of ending long gun registration (rifles and shotguns) which has been a costly boondoggle with few positive effects, but which got tangled in politics during minority days, and made criminals out off farmers who ignored it.

More significant, is the present government’s apparent determination to scrap or revise Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act which was intended to punish manifestations of “hate” in Canada, but has been misused to effectively curb free speech.

Alberta MP Brian Storseth has a private member’s bill to scrap Section 13 and leave the Criminal Code as the means to counter hate propaganda.

Enacted in 1977 (by the Trudeau government, of course), the guts of Section 13 says: “It is a discriminatory practice (by an individual or a group) … to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt by reason of the fact that person or those persons are identifiable…”

At the time, Justice Minister Ron Basford said Section 13 applied mostly to Toronto where extreme groups used recorded telephone messages to attack others. Basford said the key was that the same messages were used repeatedly: “I underline the word ‘repeatedly’ that it has to be part of a pattern … (which) serve no social purpose.”

Hate propaganda is one thing, crushing free speech is another.

Initially it was Jewish groups that supported Section 13, probably because they felt they were the favoured targets of hate. What wasn’t anticipated was that the legislation would be used to limit free speech–and in a draconian way that can’t be justified in a court of law.

If (when) Section 13 is put to rest, much credit must go to Ezra Levant and Mark Steyn, who stood tall and fought back when Human Rights Commissars went after them.

When Levant ran the magazine Western Standard (now deceased) he published the Danish cartoons that were a spoof on political aspects of Mohammed, but which every publication in North America shied from, for fear of Islamic violence that left people dead in other areas of the world.

By no stretch of any imagination was Levant indulging in “hate.” It was news and comment which other publications avoided by pretending their cowardice was acting on “principle.”

Steyn wrote a book that basically said their high birthrate indicated that Muslims would eventually be majorities in European countries. He thinks multiculturalism is a fraud–combining then worst of Muslim culture with the worst of Western culture.

By fighting back, both these guys gutted the Human Rights zealots.

The Criminal Code is quite adequate to deal with “hate,” and extends beyond free speech–our most precious democratic “right.”

Free speech is the right to be obnoxious; on occasion to be offensive; often to be wrong and to say rude or unkind things, but not necessarily untruthful things. Unlike Human Rights tribunals, those who go to court must prove they’ve been damaged by free speech.

Recent Posts by Peter Worthington

58 Comments so far ↓

  • shediac

    When extreme right wingers like Ezra Levant and Mark Steyn foam at the mouth attacking Islam it’s free speech but try and say anything about Israeli policies and you are anti-semantic and promoting hate. When one reads a Worthington column one has to keep in mind that the crap is coming from Fox News North. Gee Peter weren’t your buddies pushing for ‘the right to lie’ on air? Peter, as usual, forgets to mention that the great majority of Canadians support the gun registry and that his ideology extreme-right so called majority government in Canada actual was elected with less than 40% of the vote.

    • Fart Carbuncle

      -1 for the angry Obot rant.

    • paul_gs

      No one has ever been charged with “promoting hate” for criticizing Israel.

      • Lonewolf

        No, but they have been refused entry to the country for the sole reason that they were to give a public presentation criticizing Israeli policies. And supposedly arms-length federal funding bodies have been vapourized for the mere suggestion of possibly contributing to a pro-Palestinian speech group. Can you even conceive of a Con MP speaking out as a private citizen, against Israeli settlement policy or its acts of piracy, without getting his butt kicked out of caucas? There is definitely a Harper Government™ gag order against public criticism of Israel or its genocidal actions, and those who both violate it and gain some traction will be punished.

        • paul_gs

          So no citizen have ever been charged with a hate crime for criticizing Israel.

          Isn’t that what I said the first time?

        • Lonewolf

          There are many ways of illegally suppressing opinion without filing criminal charges, and the Harper Government™ is guilty of most of them. Your point is that of a mugger, caught redhanded, whose defense is “I didn’t kill her, did I?”

    • nuser

      Worthington and his wife is greatly influenced by Fox news. Do not reply to his posts!

    • GA

      Hate speech that is anti-semantic … despicable.

  • dittbub

    Free Speech, as it was intended, is NOT the right to be obnoxious, rude, crude, or offensive. Its the right to be contrarian. And to express dissent. Its a political notion. Not a notion we can use to excuse bad behaviour.

    • Houndentenor

      The problem with that line of thinking is that someone has to decide what is “obnoxious, rude, crude, or offensive.” Who do we trust to decide what is acceptable speech and what is not? Yes, that means people will say and publish things that I find offensive. They have a right to voice their opinion. Nowhere in the Constitution do we have the freedom to avoid being offended.

      Canadians can pass whatever laws they want but I find laws that stifle speech to be troublesome. They may be well-intentioned but all laws like that do is send unpopular views underground. That is not good for any society. Sunlight is nature’s disinfectant. Why not have all points of view out in the open where they can be addressed and challenged?

      • dittbub

        That’s specious reasoning. There is lots that is NOT in the constitution. Thank god its not written in the constitution the “right to drive” because people would use it to justify terrible and dangerous and obnoxious driving.

        • Houndentenor

          No it’s not. Who decides what is crude, rude and offensive? Who do you trust to censor what you are allowed to say and what you are allowed to read and hear? I’m an adult. I’m more than capable of changing the channel and turning the page. So are you.

    • paul_gs

      Free Speech, as it was intended, is NOT the right to be obnoxious, rude, crude, or offensive.

      Why not? 99% of what comes out of progressives’ mouths IS obnoxious, rude, crude and offensive.

    • Lonewolf

      Dead wrong! Free speech CONTAINS the right to be obnoxious, etc, at least to the point of advocating criminality, or of promoting hatred against a visible or definable group. If it does not, it is not “the right to free speech”, it is “the right to highly limited, inoffensive speech”, which I do not recall reading about anywhere in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

      • paul_gs

        There is an exemption in Canada for hate speech villifying capitalists, conservatives, Israel and anyone else progressives decide. In fact, the worst hateful speech always comes from the Left.

        • Lonewolf

          Highly specious. Once again you demonstrate your fundamental lack of understanding of anything beyond your astonishingly narrow political preferences; the difference between “hate speech”, which has a legal definition, and “hateful speech”, which is whatever one wants it to be, is enormous.

    • roubaix

      I don’t know Canadian laws, but I’ve noticed a comedian’s words resulted in a fine.

      I’m glad the US does not prohibit obnoxious, rude, crude, or offensive (or hate) speech. Every UCB Theatre would be shuttered.

      • dittbub

        So the opposite of “not a right” is “prohibition” to you?

        Imagine if we were only allowed to operate on only the things mentioned in the constitution… everything else is prohibited lol!

        Something can not be a right and still be “legal”. No one is talking about banning benign obnoxiousness, it wouldn’t be “just” (other rights at play here). But some obnoxious speech has real word consequences and you should be held responsible for it and be unable to hide behind an unrelated “right”. “Freedom of speech” is not the right to make whatever noises out the flap in your face. Its a far more serious of right.

        • roubaix

          So the opposite of “not a right” is “prohibition” to you?

          Opposite? I swapped one term for the other. So no.

        • dittbub

          indeed, i meant “same as” not “opposite”. As newt would say, quote me and you’re lying :P

          YOU GET MY POINT

  • LauraNo

    I always get a chuckle hearing conservatives defending free speech. Just as when they proclaim there is no racism. And that the markets will police themselves, trickle down will benefit the middle-class, ditto free trade, ditto school vouchers… Conservatives and free speech, what a hoot. Had a gander at any of the #OWS protests, sir? That would be conservative types beating and batoning and spraying and punching the protesters.

    • paul_gs

      It was police who were hitting and pepper spraying the protesters. Unless you know the police officers’ political affiliations, you are lying.

      The real lawbreakers in the Occupy protests have been the protesters themselves.

      • Frumplestiltskin

        ha, but we do know. That campus police chief who pepper sprayed the students is a lifelong Republican. Why would you write things that can be easily refuted?

        • paul_gs

          Geez, you know it wasn’t the police chief, don’t you?

          And following your logic, Democrats are almost entirely responsible for all the rioting, sexual assault, public defecation, drug use and looting associated with the Occupy movement.

        • Frumplestiltskin

          yes, but the buck stops there, or don’t you think that police chiefs should be responsible for ordering officers to behave inappropriately. So a police chief can order cops to shoot protesters but that is ok with you because the police chief doesn’t actually fire his weapon? Oh, wait, for the likes of you firing on protesters would be a good thing.

          Typical Republican thinking, no one is responsible for anything. The cops aren’t responsible because they were following orders, the chief isn’t responsible because she didn’t actually do the pepper spraying.

        • paul_gs

          How do you think up this crap Frumple?

          You said the police chief peppered sprayed the students. He didnt. You’re just spouting those fake left-wing talking points again where everything that occurs in the world is some conservative’s fault.

        • Lonewolf

          He was a lieutenant, not the chief. He had control of one quarter of the force in the field. He has been suspended. So has the chief. If justice is to be served, both will be fired for an egregious lapse of judgement.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    Too funny: While we do not censor comments based on political or ideological point of view, comments that are abusive, engage in personal attacks, contain racist, sexist, homophobic or other slurs, express hatred, are off-topic, use excessive foul language, or include any other type of ad hominem attacks (including comments that celebrate the death or illness of any person, public figure or otherwise) will be subject to removal.

    So Frumforum practices what Worthington decries, will Worthington now condemn Frumforum, or is it ok when Frumforum deletes posts because it isn’t censorship somehow?

    “When Levant ran the magazine Western Standard (now deceased) he published the Danish cartoons that were a spoof on political aspects of Mohammed2 The cartoons were not a “spoof” anymore than if I ran a bunch of cartoons “spoofing” the holocaust.
    The cartoons were meant to inflame and provoke and were in decided bad taste.
    Now while I personally am against censorship I am not going to state that these clowns were somekind of heroes.

    This is hilarious: By fighting back, both these guys gutted the Human Rights zealots

    Steyn is a fool with a very limited following, he “gutted” no one.

    • Houndentenor

      In this instance, the right to free speech belongs to the editors of Frum Forum, not to the people who post here. I don’t have a right to post on their board. They can delete this message if they so choose. I think that’s a bad idea, but they can do so. (Face it, people use non-deleted obnoxious posts as ammunition against bloggers all the time.) If I don’t like it then I can start my own blog and say what I want there. I have no more right to post here than I do to have the New York Times print my letter to the editor. That’s at their discretion. The freedom of the press belongs to the person who has the printing press. In this case the freedom belongs to the owner of the website.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    By the way, there are a number of things I would love to say about the execrable little Steyn but am fully cognizant that they will be deleted so I must censor myself. Frumforum encourages ratting out posters: Please email editor@FrumForum.com to notify us of comments that may violate these guidelines.

    Now I want to be completely honest, I favor these guidelines. It makes Frumforum a far more tolerable place, and being that it belongs to David Frum I have no expectation of unlimited free speech. Outside of here I am willing to defend the rights of others to be rude, obnoxious, vile, etc. but I am not going to label their detestable behavior as anything other than it is.
    To call those cartoons a “spoof” is vile. I would have far more respect for Worthington’s defense of the right to publish those cartoons if he acknowledged how vile they are. Sadly, he seems to be utterly clueless.

    • paul_gs

      Why were the cartoons vile? Why is it necessary to acknowledge they were vile? Can one not satirize or mock Islam like Xtianity is satirized?

      You probably prefer blasphemy charges instead for anyone who republished the cartoons.

      The Left was terrified of the cartoons, face it.

      • Frumplestiltskin

        “You probably prefer blasphemy charges instead for anyone who republished the cartoons.” Wow, talk about major comprehension fail.
        What part of this do you not understand: I am willing to defend the rights of others to be rude, obnoxious, vile, etc. but I am not going to label their detestable behavior as anything other than it is. Where in the world do I give any indication that I think the behavior should be sanctioned. Are you this witless that you can not read “I am willing to defend”???

        But go ahead, build strawmen, sorry I had to go and burn it down at your feet.

        And if you don’t realize that the cartoons were meant to provoke (that was the stated intention of the authors themselves) then you really are lost. They were meant to be vile to make a point about free speech.

        And I wasn’t “terrified” of any stupid cartoon. You are far more terrified of Muslims than I am.

        South Park makes cartoons meant to provoke, they made a cartoon where a statue of the virgin Mary supposedly was bleeding out of her anus, and the Pope went to look at it and it sprayed blood on his face, he then said it was coming out of her vagina and a woman bleeding out of her vagina was no big deal.
        I didn’t freak out about this, but it wasn’t funny, it was frankly stupid, it didn’t provoke, it bored me. But I can understand how devout Catholics could be offended by this “spoof” and am sensitive to their feelings. So yes, South Park can certainly do that, but I can also call them boring aholes for doing so.

        • paul_gs

          Now you’re talking about your injured feelings while ignoring the serious issue at hand.

          Should provocative cartoons warrant being dragged before a human rights tribunal? Why should it even reach that stage?

        • Frumplestiltskin

          As there is no reply function above: You said the police chief peppered sprayed the students.

          Are you really this obtuse? So I can’t say that Hitler did not kill the Jews as he did not personally kill a single Jew in his life. Must you torture the English language so? If you order your subordinates to perform an action you are responsible for it to the point that it is the same as your doing it yourself. You don’t have to be a triggerman to be put away for murder if you participate in the planning an execution of it. Why do I have to explain such elemental logic to you? You are utterly flailing knowing your argument is reduced to shreds so you get hyper-literal.
          Seriously, you are getting sad.

        • paul_gs

          Oh chill out Frumple and quit adopting that wounded tone progressives so often have.

          People of all political persuasions have bent over backwards accommodating the Occupy movement. Occupy groups have numerous times intentionally tried to provoke authorities and (surprise! surprise!) a few police have overreacted.

          But it is obvious Occupiers were intent on creating a photo-op to try and breathe life in their expiring movement. They would do whatever was necessary to get some policeman somewhere to overreact.

          Lights, camera, action! It all looks staged to me.

          Still, it is taxpayers left with the bill for cleaning up after the Occupiers and paying the added costs of security.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    “Now you’re talking about your injured feelings while ignoring the serious issue at hand.”
    Good lord, what is wrong with you? Where do I write anything about feelings? I feel like I am communicating with a mental patient.

    I repeat it again, I really don’t understand your comprehension fail:
    I am willing to defend the rights of others to be rude, obnoxious, vile, etc. but I am not going to label their detestable behavior as anything other than it is.

    So obviously I don’t agree with that Canadian law, but to be honest since it is Canada I also don’t remotely care as you are nothing but a bunch of seal munching igloo dwellers. It is not for nothing that the most boring sentence in the English language was judged to be: Canadian initiative judged worthwhile.

    • paul_gs

      You wouldn’t be so smug if you had ever smacked your lips feasting on the raw meat from a freshly killed baby seal. Dee-lish-eeous!!

  • LauraNo

    All one has to do is look at the face of the pepper-spraying cop to know he is a conservative, police state, fascist liberal hater just itching to ‘teach those kids a lesson’, eg. follow their master’s every word. That is no democrat. Nor liberal.

    • paul_gs

      Whatever Laura. Just as likely he is a disillusioned progressive who thought being a cop he would be able to help people and instead has to deal with the spoiled spawn of left-wing Boomers.

      • Lonewolf

        Yeah, that’s a real plausible theory. Another is that he’s an agent provocateur for the Guam Liberation Force, trying to drive America into anarchy so his country can declare independence. Clearly, equally plausible.

  • LauraNo

    Pepper spraying cop had an anti-gay slur lawsuit ending in $240,000 settlement while previously saying the spray is ‘not always the best tool’.

    • paul_gs

      The Left sure is quick on digging the dirt up, I’ll say that much.

      But why the silence on the Occupiers and their millions of dollars of damage to public and private property?

      • TerryF98

        Count em 14 “posts” by Paul_gs on this thread alone, by me ONE, and the tool says this.

        “Look who’s talking Mr. Post-A-Minute.”

        This man is a Faux loving fool.

    • Ray_Harwick

      Um, I’m on the Right, I’m gay, and I don’t want some gay-sluring, pepper spraying cop working out his authority and entitlement issues on me when I sit down on the sidewalk to exercise my FREEDOM of speech. Look it up, genius, in the rulings of the United State Supreme Court. Non-violent protest is protected by federal law. You ARE in favor of the Rule of LAW, right?

  • nuser

    Why respond to paul gs?

  • nuser

    I pledge never to read Worthington’s articles anywhere !

  • WestQuake

    Don’t believe the far-right propaganda about Canadian hate-speech laws. Contrary to their warped interpretation, Canadians have freedom of speech. Americans who believe Worthington’s lies must reflect on their own lack of freedom, demonstrated every night on network TV by childish restrictions on what can be shown and what people are permitted to say (hint “wardrobe malfunction”, “expletive deleted”, etc.). Find out how much freedom of speech you have by typing any of the key-words that will trigger the massive domestic spying establishment monitoring your telephone and e-mail and computer usage.

    Worthington talks about criminal prosecution without explaining how that would actually occur. As for the poor comic who insulted a lesbian couple in his audience, take the time to read the Commission report and decide whether criminal charges might have been more appropriate. http://www.bchrt.bc.ca/decisions/2011/pdf/april/101_Pardy_v_Earle_and_others_No_4_2011_BCHRT_101.pdf

    The law works: the hate-filled bigots and racists haven’t changed but they don’t insult people with their “Gord Hates Flags” signs. The more than 20% of Canadians who are foreign born (probably closer to 25% in the 2011 census) as compared to less than 15% in the U.S. appreciate not being called vile racist names at work.

  • chephren

    I’m a conservative voter and I support Canada’s hate speech laws.

    The far-right hate for hate speech laws on the part of Mark Steyn, Ezra Levant, Peter Worthington, Ted Byfield and others is mostly hot air.

    Steyn and Levant have built much of their careers and reputations on their crusade against what Worthington refers to above as “Human Rights Commissars”, which they hold up as dangerous, oppressive thought police. In reality, the vast majority of the complaints provincial human rights commissions deal with have to do with workplace disputes over sexual harrassment, racial discrimination and wrongful dismissal. Hate speech cases are actually quite rare.

    Far too often, Canadian anti-hate speech partisans have supported the agendas of neo-Nazis, anti-semites, Holocaust deniers and anti-immigration racists.

    The old rant against multiculturalism is a crock. For decades, people like Worthington and Barbara Amiel warned that multiculturalism would inevitably fracture and destroy Canada. It was a false alarm. Canada is united, prosperous, capitalist and humanely governed.

    Canada is actually multi-ethic, not multicultural. For all our racial diversity, which has transformed the population in my lifetime (I’m 51), Canadians share a remarkable cultural unity that respects democracy, public discourse and different religious beliefs.

  • nhthinker

    Would posting an expression of enmity for persons of certain sexual orientation such as pedophilia run afoul of Canada’s hate speech laws?
    I wonder if Jerry Sandusky could sue for all the terrible things beings said about pedophiles if Penn State was in Canada.

    Canadians: got to love their hospitality and sense of decorum.

    Also interesting, hating on specific political groups is not subject to the law- I.e., liberals are free to express hate for conservatives and vise versa.
    I wonder if expressing hate for Jews is prohibited, but expressing hate for Zionists is not?
    Is expressing hate for jihadists prohibited? (After all, there clearly is a religious component to it.)

    One interpretation might be that one is allowed to express hate for Zionists but not Jihadists.

    • chephren

      Pedophilia is not a “sexual orientation”. It’s a crime in Canada, just as it is in the US.

      • nhthinker

        [i] quote from the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases. It is taken from F.66 of ICD-10 (2006), the most recent version of the index:

        F66 Psychological and behavioural disorders associated with sexual development and orientation
        Note: Sexual orientation by itself is not to be regarded as a disorder.

        Egodystonic sexual orientation
        The gender identity or sexual preference (heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, or prepubertal) is not in doubt, but the individual wishes it were different because of associated psychological and behavioural disorders, and may seek treatment in order to change it. [/i]

        prepubertal sexual preference is a sexual identity/orientation/preference typically identified as pedophilia. Acting on it is associated with the crimes of child molestation, child pornography and child sexual abuse.


        The distinction between a victim’s gender and a perpetrator’s sexual orientation is important because many child molesters don’t really have an adult sexual orientation. They have never developed the capacity for mature sexual relationships with other adults, either men or women. Instead, their sexual attractions focus on children – boys, girls, or children of both sexes.

  • Free speech and chilling effects roundup

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