Free Speech on Hold in the Senate



February 21, 2013

As reported by Brian Lilley Brian Lilley , Brian Storseth’s Bill C-304 is being held up in the Senate, and by none other than Conservative appointees! The Hon. Senator Nolin and the Hon. Senator Ruth have reservations about the bill which would see the censorship provisions in Section 13 eliminated.

The Senators seem worried that certain people won’t be able to prosecute others for hurtful statements (see Nolin’s statement here and Ruth’s statement here).

Senator Nolin seems convinced that the Supreme Court got it right back in 1990 when it ruled that Section 13 was constitutional. In the R. v. Taylor case, section 13 was indeed ruled constitutional, but only by four of the Supreme Court judges; three others disagreed (one of whom is the current Chief Justice) and two did not participate in the decision. Furthermore, a law deemed constitutional does in no way mean it ought to be deemed necessary. Senator Nolin seems to think otherwise. Moreover, the evidence suggests that the dangers warned about in the dissent (about over-reach) have come true. So, a re-evaluation is in order, and in fact, is pending in the Whatcott decision.

Senator Ruth is concerned that because disability, age and sex are not listed as protected in the Criminal Code hate speech laws, we need the Human Rights Act to protect these groups. This is very misleading for two reasons: first, in fact everyone is protected from criminal hate speech: section 319 of the Criminal Code states, “Every one who… incites hatred against any identifiable group…” Second, we should not use administrative law (the Human Rights Act) with its low burden of proof, its relaxed rules of evidence and its lack of protection for the rights of the accused in order to make up for perceived failures in the Criminal Code. That is manifestly unfair.

The Senate should hurry up with Bill C-304. It’s a small bill with huge implications for freedom in Canada. Stand Up for Freedom Senators!

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