A Conservative private members bill that repeals part ofCanada s hate speech laws has passed the House of Commons withscant media attention, and even less commentary. But it's beingcheered by many Canadian conservatives as a victory for freedom ofspeech. And it's being cheered most vocally by another group: Whitesupremacists. Bill C-304 , introduced by Conservative backbencher Brian Storseth, repealsSection 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which bans hate speechtransmitted over the Internet or by telephone. |
It passed thirdreading in the House of Commons on Thursday and is now headed tothe Senate. This is a huge victory for freedom in Canada , a poster calling him or herself CanadaFirst posted on thewebsite of StormFront, a notorious white supremacist group. However, we still have other unjust Zionist hate laws thatneed to go. Way to go, Harper. I know we can t get everything we want, but Istand a little taller today as a Canuck, wrote OneMan.
The new law doesn t make hate speech legal on the web or by phone-- hate speech remains illegal under the Criminal Code. But byremoving it from the Canadian Human Rights Act, it takes away theauthority of the country s human rights commissions to investigateonline hate speech and request that violating websites be takendown. That has alarmed the Canadian Bar Association, which said in a recent report it s concerned that the law may be the start of a campaign by theConservatives to weaken Canada s human rights laws. The debate surrounding the expediency of section 13 has becomethe proxy for an open assault on the very existence of anadministrative framework to protect human rights in this country, the CBA stated. "Over the years, human rights commissions have remained at thevanguard of eliminating discrimination based on race, religion,gender, disability, sexual orientation, and other grounds, andadvancing equality," the CBA added.
Other supporters of the commissions say taking away their authorityover hate speech will embolden racists and lead to more racial violence . But human rights commissions have become bogeymen to many Canadianconservatives, and some others, who have campaigned for years toeliminate them altogether, painting them as bureaucratic tools ofcensorship. In one famous case, conservative media icon Ezra Levant was hauledin front of an Alberta tribunal to explain his decision to runcontroversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed in the magazine heran at the time, the Western Standard . Levant became a cause celebre for opponents of the commissions, andhis decision to republish the cartoons online on the day of hishuman rights hearing was hailed as heroic by many conservatives.
But all the opposition parties voted against the private members bill in Parliament Thursday, with NDP public safety critic RandallGarrison arguing that it would now be much harder to prevent hatespeech online. We do have a serious problem , Garrison told the National Post . If you take away the power to take (websites) down, it s notclear they have any mandate to even to talk to people about it andeducate them about it. Garrison argued that the Tories are being dishonest by having theselaws be introduced as private members bills, rather thangovernment bills, noting that the Conservative Party of Canada maderepealing human rights commissions ability to regulate hatespeech a part of their platform. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews defended the bill, tweeting onThursday that the new law will end arbitrary censorship powers of human rights commissions.
Public opinion on human rights commissions is split. An unscientific poll on the CBC website shows a bare majority of people supporting the Tories move.
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