Should the human rights act forbid online hate speech?
The bill from Alberta Conservative MP Brian Storseth would scrap Section 13 of the human rights code, as well as Section 54, which deals with penalties for this offence.
In a free vote that went essentially pitted Conservatives against the opposition members, the Tories supported the bill on third reading, meaning it now goes to the Senate.
The section in question deals with "the communication of hate messages by telephone or on the Internet," and says it is discriminatory to create automated phone messages or post material "that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt."
Opponents of Section 13 say it is an affront to free speech because it allows the human rights commission to investigate hate speech and impose fines. They say that police should be the ones investigating hate crimes under the Criminal Code of Canada, which bans wilful promotion of hatred.
Conservative Senator Doug Finley said that eliminating Section 13 would "defend freedom of speech" for Canadians.
Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews tweeted:
Pleased that Bill C-304, to end arbitrary censorship powers of human rights commissions, passed 3rd reading and goes to Senate-- Vic Toews (@ToewsVic) June 7, 2012
But supporters of Section 13 say it is an important tool that allows the human rights commission to fight hatred online and force websites that contain hateful speech offline.
New Democrat public safety critic Randall Garrison says the human rights commission needs the power of Section 13 to take down hate websites.
The Canadian Bar Association says that promotion of hatred is a "social evil" that has increased with the proliferation of the internet, and that the standard for wilful promotion of hatred in the Criminal Code is very difficult to prove. The CBA supported "retaining section 13 as a useful tool," but had reservations about the punitive fines. (PDF file)
Should sections that prohibit hate speech be removed from the human rights code? Let us know what you think.
(This survey is not scientific. Results are based on readers' responses.)
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