On Thursday, the Senate gave third and final reading to Conservative MP Brian Storseth’s private member’s Bill C-304 to repeal Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, striking a much appreciated blow in favour of freedom of expression.
I believe most Canadians, like myself, understand that in a modern democracy we must all accept limits to rights such as free speech. The example most frequently used here is that one can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theatre. Most, though, would accept as I believe, that any such limits must be reasonable and—as stated in our constitution—“can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”
To me, limits imposed on Canadians by Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act were not reasonable—especially as they were being interpreted by some human rights commissions and tribunals—for mere hurt feeling were being used to justify hash penalties. This was made all the more egregious by virtue of the fact that under Section 13.1, “intent” is not a requirement, and “truth” is not a defence. All that is required is that a human rights tribunal finds that one has expressed “any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt” and that the person be a member of certain specified groups.
It’s worth noting that repeal of Section 13 doesn’t give a free rein to hate mongers haunting the Internet, for as Sun News’ David Akin reminds us:
With elimination of Section 13, producing and disseminating hate speech continues to be a Criminal Code violation but police and the courts will adjudicate rather than human rights tribunals.” [emphasis mine]
Once Bill C-304 receives royal assent, we can only hope provinces with similar legislation will follow suit, spelling the end of the practice of un-democratic, free-speech deniers using such legislation to overreach in their campaigns to enforce political correctness or to advance other agendas.