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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Canada is one step closer to allowing free speech

Canadians should rejoice over the fact that yesterday parliament voted decisively in favour of passing Bill C-304, An Act to (Protecting Freedom) (http://parl.gc.ca/LegisInfo/BillDetails.aspx?Language=E&Mode=1&billId=5124394) and sending it to the Senate.

The private member's bill, drafted by Conservative MP Brian Storseth, proposes a very simple amendment to enable Canadians the right to free speech, a supposed sacred value to the Liberals, who drafted the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, even though yesterday they voted against it.

Conservative Party faithful will note repealing s. 13 has long been a policy goal, enshrined in their policy document passed by the entire Conservative Party membership (http://www.conservative.ca/media/2011-CPC-Policy-E.pdf):

iii) We support legislation to remove authority from the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal to regulate, receive, investigate or adjudicate complaints related to section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

C-304 proposes that section 13 be removed from the Canadian Human Rights Act. S. 13 currently states:

13. (1) It is a discriminatory practice for a person or a group of persons acting in concert to communicate telephonically or to cause to be so communicated, repeatedly, in whole or in part by means of the facilities of a telecommunication undertaking within the legislative authority of Parliament, any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt by reason of the fact that that person or those persons are identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.

(2) For greater certainty, subsection (1) applies in respect of a matter that is communicated by means of a computer or a group of interconnected or related computers, including the Internet, or any similar means of communication, but does not apply in respect of a matter that is communicated in whole or in part by means of the facilities of a broadcasting undertaking.

(3) For the purposes of this section, no owner or operator of a telecommunication undertaking communicates or causes to be communicated any matter described in subsection (1) by reason only that the facilities of a telecommunication undertaking owned or operated by that person are used by other persons for the transmission of that matter.

Storseth's legislation would completely repeal the preceding text, and also amend possible punishments under the CHRA: no person can be ordered to be removed from their employment position, nor can anyone be ordered to be removed from their residence due to a finding under the CHRA.

Storseth noted the disturbing trend of frivolous "hate speech" complaints being taken to unelected, untrained civil servants at an agency known as the "Canadian Human Rights Commission." The Commission is responsible for upholding the CHRA, and it has provincial counterparts who also uphold their province's respective human rights codes.

But Storseth rightly notes there are already hate speech provisions engrained in the Criminal Code: s. 318 prevents advocating for genocide and 319 says a person may not publicly incite hatred against an identifiable group.

Most importantly, these complaints are handled by law enforcement professionals and the justice system, not bureaucrats.

The egregious miscarriages of justice handed out over the years by these commissions are precisely laid out in Shakedown: How Our Government is Undermining Democracy (http://www.amazon.ca/Shakedown-Government-Undermining-Democracy-Rights/dp/0771046189). I too have previously written about them (http://www.danieldickin.ca/2011/11/irony-of-ontarios-human-rights.html), but for the sake of shock and outrage they bare repeating:

* Ezra Levant was brought before the Alberta HRC for publishing photos of Mohammed
* Mark Steyn was prosecuted by the British Columbia HRC for writing an article in Maclean's Magazine titled The Future Belongs to Islam. When the Canadian Islamic Congress wasn't allowed "equal space for a rebuttal," they said Maclean's was violating their human rights!
* Guy Earle, a comedian, was fined $22,500 by the Ontario HRC after he traded some choice words with two lesbian hecklers. They claimed Earle was discriminating against them, rather than doing what comedians do when you interrupt their show.
* Sinem Ketenci, a Ryerson University student, brought her professor to the Ontario HRC after she was told her Master's degree dissertation on social work could not be about "how maltreated animals are the same as marginalized people." Ketenci is demanding $15,000 because apparently this treatment is "systemic discrimination and harassment that silences marginalized minorities, such as me as a Racialized Ethical Vegan." Seriously.

Human rights are intended to be a shield, not a sword. Repealing section 13 is the first step in enforcing actual human rights and clearing the HRC's of frivolous complaints.