The CBA favours protection against hate speech in Canadian Human Rights Act

  • June 25, 2013

OTTAWA – The Canadian Bar Association (CBA) opposes Bill C-304, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act, as it calls for the repeal of section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA), something the CBA says will result in the proliferation of hate speech on the Internet and through other forms of telecommunications.

“The CBA strongly recommends that section 13 of the CHRA be retained as it represents an important tool to combat the spread of hate messages and fosters equality, human dignity, tolerance, and respect in Canadian society,” says Mark Toews of Winnipeg, member of the CBA’s Constitutional Human Rights Law Section.

“Section 13 is an important means to prevent human rights abuses from occurring,” adds Mark Toews. “In order for Canada to remain a nation in which tolerance and respect for human dignity and equality are the norm, Parliament must not repeal section 13 of the CHRA.” 

The CBA further opposes the repeal of section 13 because without it, discrimination can only be fought through the Criminal Code. “The Code is a very blunt tool that requires a high evidentiary threshold before it can be successfully engaged,” explains Mark Toews. “Section 13 applies to conduct that falls short of a Code offence, but that nevertheless poses harm to vulnerable individuals, target groups, and society as a whole.”

The CBA notes that the federal government is committed to the promotion and protection of religious freedom and minorities abroad following the establishment of an Office of Religious Freedom within the Department of Foreign Affairs. “Without section 13, Canadians will be subjected to a proliferation of hate messages and communications in our home country with a corresponding loss of civility, tolerance, and respect in Canadian society,” says Mark Toews.

Mark Toews appeared on behalf of the CBA before the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights on Tuesday, June 25, 2013, at 11:45 a.m., in Room 2, Victoria Building, 140 Wellington Street. The CBA appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights a year ago in April 2012. The CBA submission is available on the CBA website.

The CBA is dedicated to improvement in the law, the administration of justice, and support for the rule of law. Some 37,000 lawyers, law teachers, and law students from across Canada are members.

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