11.21.2011 09:10 AM

Section 13

As predicted, when Harper’s gang finally achieved their majority, they’d go after section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. They didn’t campaign on a pledge to do that – it was never mentioned, as I recall – but they’re doing it.  In fact, before 2011, their position was always to defend the section.

Why is it a mistake?  Two reasons:

Offensive expression is offensive – but it isn’t always criminal. The idiots in the Harper government have now created an environment where targets of hateful expression will be obliged to use the criminal law to defend themselves from hate.

I hope the Minister of Justice has the budget to hire many, many more prosecutors.  He’ll need them.


  1. Johnny says:

    Can you please give the name or number of the bill,I forgot! This way I could track it,thank you!

    • bigcitylib says:

      Bill C-304.

      I suspect the folks cheering this one on will have a “careful what you wish for moment” somewhere down the road. Its interesting that the gov doesn’t just repeal 13 but wants to “enhance” the criminal code provisions.

  2. Ron Dennis says:

    More news from the neo-con ‘bluenatics.’ I fear for my country with Harper’s Bizarre at the helm.

  3. Attack! says:

    Interesting. Which means that now, thanks to caving to drama queens like Ezracrable who refuse to own up to the irresponsibility of their actions, the Cons are about to do the very thing another large segment of their very shrill supporters have been carrying on about for so long, w/r/t the Liberals on the Firearms Act and the Gun Registry:

    criminalize antisocial or at least negligent behavior that should only be subjected to regulatory fines.

  4. Brine says:

    The right not to be offended is a fake right. The state had no business protecting people from getting their feelings hurt in the first place. This bill is good news.

    • The Realist says:

      I come here every day to be offended (snark).

      Making fun of Stockwell Day with a Barney doll might be considered offensive if you’re Stockwell Day.

      I voted for Day, even though I’m as anti-religious as one can get. I figured that his sincere religious conviction that the Earth is 6000 years old would never gain traction in official school curriculum anyhow (would be politically stupid and impossible to implement it).

  5. The Realist says:

    You can’t have free speech if you justify outlawing ‘hate speech’ either by criminal or civil sanctions.

    Don’t like what somebody says? You’re allowed to oppose their ideas in public discourse. Or not listen to them.

    None of you believe in free speech. So don’t come crying when some government bureaucrat one day deems that what you might say is offensive and that you should pay out fines that deplete you of your life’s savings.

    • Dan says:

      I don’t have to worry about that. Racist assholes should be very worried though. At least until the conservative party changes the laws for them.

      • The Realist says:

        The choice between the status quo (Human Rights tribunals) and the new legislation proposed by Harper are false choices.

        Taken as is, the Bible can be considered hate speech. And those who quoted from it were fined by human rights tribunals.

        I’m not even a religious person.

        • Warren says:

          No, but you’d be a more credible person if you actually used your real name. Sermonizing about “truth” doesn’t really work when you hide the truth of the sermonizer.

          • The Realist says:

            I could post as “John Smith”, would that be better? I make it known that I’m using a screen name, and not a pseudonym.

            The right to be anonymous is also a right of free expression. Many authors of note have written under nom-de-plumes. Ironically, I’m currently reading ‘Frankenstein’ which was also published under a pseudonym.

        • dave says:

          Seems to me that an event during the Winnipeg General Strike in 1919 was the iimprisoning of J.S. Woodsworth for using a verse from the Bible. I thinkt hat it was a sedition clause that was used against him.

          (A verse from Isaiah about ‘they’ ripping off the fruits of people’s labours!)

        • HonestB says:

          Do you have a specific CHRT decision in mind when you say that?

          Personally, I think if someone hides behind the bible while spreading hate, the bible shouldn’t protect them.

          • The Doctor says:

            My guess is the poster above was referring to the Boissoin case in Alberta. But of course that was an Alberta Human Rights Commission case, not a CHRC case.

    • Philip says:

      I have a bit of a giggle when people talk about “free speech” as if is a real and tangible thing not some disturbing little fantasy.

      • The Realist says:

        Yes, free speech is evil. Whoever wrote the following was an asshole:

        “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. ”

        And the ACLU are assholes as well:

        “1978: Taking a Stand for Free Speech in Skokie: The ACLU took a controversial stand for free speech by defending a Nazi group that wanted to march through the Chicago suburb of Skokie—where many Holocaust survivors lived. The notoriety of the case cost the ACLU dearly as members left in droves, but to many, it was our finest hour and has come to represent our unwavering commitment to principle.”


        I’ve seen the error of my ways. Free speech is stupid. Thank you for showing me the way.

        • Philip says:

          Except I never said that “free speech” was evil. I just pointed out that it doesn’t exist.

          Societies have always placed restrictions on speech, some unspoken others explicit and codified in law. Absolute freedom of speech is inconsistant with the functioning of any society. Arguing for “free speech” is alot like arguing that unicorns exist. Whatever support you might gain among the shut-ins and half bright would be worth the credibilty you lose.

          I’m glad I could clear that up for you!

        • sharonapple88 says:

          The above case — where people pulled away from the ACLU does illustrate a point Stanley Fish made that although most people say they believe in free speech, they have limits. In one of the great polemics for free speech, Areopagitica, Milton argues for free speech for everyone except Catholics (the great outsiders in his day).

          Here’s a more current example. Geert Wilders was allowed to speak in Canada, but George Galloway wasn’t. They’re both controversial, but Galloway was too much for the government to bare.

  6. Brad says:

    All the money the spent on renos for the G8 (instead of building a new resort!) can go towards criminal prosecutions.

    Steve and Tony are there for us.


  7. Dan says:

    I’ve always believed that hate speech is a misnomer. We’re really talking about terrorism: statements directed at encouraging violence against a specific group.

    And I’ve never believed that merely harsh or mean words should be criminalized. (And anyone who disagrees can go fuck themselves.)

    So when I hear the policy is based on the idea that only the most fringe, violent types of speech will be targeted, and it would be successful only under the criminal code, which requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt… I say “that’s a great idea”.

    But when I hear it’s the conservative party doing it…

    http://warrenkinsella.com/articles/political-correctness/ (you know. these guys)

    … I think about all the white supremacist supporters winking right back at Harper. “Yeah. Improve hate speech laws. *wink* Got it.”

  8. HonestB says:

    There’s also an issue of Police expertise. As I understand it, many police forces in Canada don’t have any kind of specialized hate crimes unit. Calgary, which has had some of the most troubling incidents of neo-nazi gang violence over the past few years, doesn’t have a real hate crimes unit, just a “liason officer” (http://www.calgarypolice.ca/community-hatebias.html), who’s job seems to be more to encourage marginalized communities to report hate crimes (which is also important) than to investigate and charge hate groups.
    How can a police service with no expertise on the issue and no track record of successfully investigating hate speech be trusted with this kind of responsibility?

    • Attack! says:

      Ergo, I hope they kick in Ezra’s door and arrest him in his underwear for his next inevitable offense; ‘Careful for what you bitch for.’

      • The Realist says:

        I don’t even like Ezra Levant, and you force me to defend him.

        That’s the crux of those who defend the HRC, they can use it to attack those whose speech they don’t like.

        • sharonapple88 says:

          You need more than to dislike a person’s speech. If we’re talking about section 13, we’re talking about hate speech. If people could use the HRC to attack anyone for saying things someone else disliked, half the people on the internet would have already been dragged there (including me).

          • Philip says:

            The myth that people are reporting each other in droves to the local HRC, for speech they personally dislike, is a just another Conservative fund raising tool. It’s fine if a political party feels that the only way it is able to raise money is to lie to their members. That is between the Conservatives and their membership. I’m not buying. I can’t help but notice that most other people aren’t buying it either.

        • HonestB says:

          Have you read any CHRT decisions on section 13? Because as far as I know there aren’t really any cases of people being brought before the CHRT that actually look like that outside of Ezra’s imagination.

  9. dave says:

    Maybe there is some way that tort law can be used a bit more to address this kind of thing. Can there be such a thing as a class action slander suit?

  10. The Realist says:

    But Warren says the status quo is better, because the HRC will just slap a bunch of internet kids who say the N-word with a fine.

    Harper will criminalize them, potentially. Or he won’t because he’ll supposedly underfund prosecutions, and that those who are the targets of mean words on the internet might have to resort to vigilantism.

  11. Woolfman says:

    The level of ignorance stemming from the rightwing”brains trust” here is overwhelming. Warren Kinsella who is among a select few who know about neo-Nazis and racists understands the difference between being “offensive” and being hateful. Our own Supreme Court has defined it and found it to be constitutional.

    And now we have a Tory government backtracking with its majority thinking that ridding of us section 13 will protect their Neanderthal buddies. Think again, if Section 13 goes the way of the Dino, there will only be one law, a criminal law, that can be used and we will for sure see a huge increase in prosecutions. Good news is Harper will be making more jails too.

    And By the way most police have become pretty good at investigating hate crimes and will not hesitate to suggest charges.

  12. billg says:

    You can be charged and convicted in this country and never get to stand in front of an actual judge, and, never step foot in an actual court of Law….say it enough times and it becomes the begining of an Issac Asimov story. If we have to have 2 seperate judicial systems then can we at least get to choose? You can pick the one that has a 100% conviction record and I’ll take the one with trained Lawyers and Judges.

  13. patrick deberg says:

    Ezra doesn’t mind getting in bed with the Neo Nazis as long as he gets to throw rocks at Muslims.

  14. MP says:

    You can portray the removal of section 13 as part of Harper’s hidden agenda if you like, but the simpler explanation is probably more correct. The Supreme Court of Canada is about to rule on the constitutionality of section 13 and judging from the tone of their questions at the hearing of , is not likely to uphold it.

    Watch the hearing for yourself: http://www.scc-csc.gc.ca/case-dossier/cms-sgd/sum-som-eng.aspx?cas=33676

  15. MP says:

    Sorry – I meant to refer to the Whatcott case before the SCC: http://www.scc-csc.gc.ca/case-dossier/cms-sgd/sum-som-eng.aspx?cas=33676

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