The repeal of section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) seems inevitable now that MP Brian Storseth (Westlock–St. Paul) has successfully steered his private member’s Bill C-304 through its second reading.
The Bill will now move to the Justice Committee for review, after which, it will need to pass a third vote in the House of Commons and then the Senate before becoming law.
Bill C-304’s enactment would amend—according to the Bill’s summary—the CHRA by “deleting sections 13 and 54 to ensure there is no infringement on freedom of expression guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
Section 54 specifies those penalties that can be levied when discrimination under Section 13 has been substantiated by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.
I’ve watched as the tide of opinion has turned against Section 13 and related legislation. Several incidents have combined to make the issue a non-partisan one. Here are just three examples:
- In 2008, the CHRC itself hired Professor Richard Moon to examine Section 13. Moon’s principal recommendation was that section 13 be repealed so that online hate speech becomes a purely criminal matter.
- Former Liberal MP (Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca) Keith Martin proposed a private member’s bill to rescind section 13.1. Unfortunately, no political party took up his M-446 and it languished without a vote.
- In 2009, a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal member, Athanasios Hadjis, ruled that Section 13 violates our Charter-right to freedom of expression.
In recent years, several Conservative, Liberal and NDP politicians seemed generally to agree that something needs to be done about Section 13—at least, that’s the impression I gained from listening to talk shows.
Yet, in second reading, only one opposition MP voted in favour of Bill C-304—Liberal Scott Simms (Bonavista-Gander-Grand Falls-Windsor).
Human rights are one of the sacred cows in Canada, and so they should be. But when quasi-judicial bodies overreach in their zeal to enforce legislation to the point of actually doing harm to freedom of expression—perhaps the most fundamental human right of all—it is time for MPs of all political stripes to step in.
I remind readers that under Section 13.1 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, “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.
Let’s hope Bill C-304 will finally pass into law, spelling the end of Section 13’s use by un-democratic, free-speech deniers who have overreached in their campaign to enforce political correctness and who abuse our individual rights to freedom of expression.