CAFE CALLS ON MINISTER OF JUSTICE NOT TO REINTRODUCE SEC 13 — INTERNET CENSORSHIP
Canadian Association for Free Expression
Rexdale, Ontario, M9W 5L3
Ph: 905-289-674-4455; FAX: 289-674-4820;
Paul Fromm, B.Ed, M.A. Director
June 21, 2019
Hon. David Lametti,
Minister of Justice,
House of Commons,
Dear Minister Lametti:
RE: Please Don’t Reintroduce Sec. 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Code
I read in the National Post (June 20, 2019) that you are considering “very carefully” a recommendation by the Commons Justice Committee to reintroduce the discredited Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act which was repealed by Parliament in 2013. Please don’t do it.
Sec. 13 made it a discriminatory practice to repeatedly communicate over the Internet material that is “likely to expose to hatred or contempt” a long list of privileged groups.
I represented a number of the victims of this section at Tribunals. Our organization the Canadian Association for Free Expression participated in a number of other Tribunals including the very complex Warman v Lemire.
In practice, Sec. 13 meant certain groups were virtually immune from criticism. While hatred is a very strong emotion, contempt is merely the result of negative commentary. To take a neutral example, were I to say smokers had bad breath, discoloured teeth, stained fingers, smelled and ran added risks of cancer or strokes, I would not be exposing smokers to hatred. I wouldn’t be asking anyone to hate smokers but I would certainly be creating an unfavourable impression of them, and, thus, exposing them to contempt. Thus, were smokers a privileged groups, I’d risk a conviction under Sec. 13.
As time went on, Tribunal rulings held that it was not necessary to prove that anyone actually felt or expressed hatred or contempt as a result of the impugned posting. In the Lemire case, logs showed that only five people had ever even read one impugned post. Surely a case of de minimis! It also emerged that truth was not a defence, sincerely held religious belief was not a defence nor was opinion or commentary.
Indeed, there actually were no defences, except, perhaps, that the accused person had not posted the controversial material in question. Thus, until the Lemire case, Sec. 13 had a one hundred per cent conviction rate. This would rival the vile legal system of North Korea!
After 2001, when Sec. 13 was amended to specifically include material on the Internet, one individual, Richard Warman, a driven “anti-Nazi” campaigner and sometime employee of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, made the bulk of the complaints, turning it into an industry and, at times a profitable one too for, should the victim post criticisms of Mr. Warman after he filed a complaint, he would then allege retaliation, which exposed the victim to a punitive fine.
Sec. 13 was only used against people seen to be on the “right” of the political spectrum. No person expressing strident opinions against Christians or Europeans was ever prosecuted.
Much is made of so-called “hate speech” on the Internet. The Internet is not a free for all. Postings expressing extreme hatred can and have been prosecuted under Sec. 319 of the Criminal Code. Those who denounce “hate speech” are using a loaded term to demonize views they don’t like. The accusation of “hate speech” tells you little about the content of the impugned material but does tell you that it is material the accuser hates!
The Internet allows a much greater range of views and commentary and a more free wheeling debate, especially on such volatile issues as immigration, than usually appears in Canada’s fairly controlled press that tends to limit the range of acceptable opinions. Such freedom and the divergent voices being heard are upsetting to people who would like a much more controlled public discourse.
I have seen lives ruined by Sec. 13 — huge fines and life-long “cease and desist orders” that have the force of a Federal Court order. I have seen individuals jailed for nothing more than the non-violent expression of their political views.
I urge you to choose freedom. Reject calls for the reintroduction of Sec. 13. Yes, there is some extreme, foolish and insulting material on the Internet. Open discussion and debate tend to isolate and expose such postings. Canada needs more speech and debate not less. Do not bring back Sec. 13.