s.13 is not quite dead…There is the Senate to clear and Royal Assent; but the Canadian Human Rights Act will now lose s.13 and with it the capacity for individuals to abuse the idiotically drafted hate speech provisions therein.
In a vote of 153 to 136, the majority Harper government supported a private member’s bill from Alberta Conservative MP Brian Storseth that would scrap Section 13 of the human rights code, which deals with complaints regarding “the communication of hate messages by telephone or on the Internet.” post media news
This has been a long fight and it has been fought by many people ranging from the Canadian Civil Liberties Union to Blazing Catfur.
The fact that this Bill has been passed is a clear demonstration that the blogosphere can gain traction and amplify concerns. It is also evidence that the bloggers who participated in this fight, on both sides, were dealing with a matter of pressing public interest.
The fact s.13 has been scrapped rather than modified or watered down is critical. It affirms the concerns first raised by McLachlin, CJC’s dissent in Taylor. S. 13 was beyond reform; rather it had become a censor’s charter. It was wide open to abuse, was abused and has now been scrapped.
The people who worked so tirelessly to bring about its destruction, Ezra Levant, Mark Steyn, Marc Lemire, the editorial boards of virtually every Canadian newspaper have had the public interest firmly to heart each step of the way. Today they were vindicated.
However, there is work to be done.
The odious Arthur Topham has, apparently, been arrested charged for hate speech under the still existant Criminal Code provisions against hate speech. Details are sketchy and, until they are clearer, I will reserve judgement. However, I can’t help but note that while Topham is the crudest sort of anti-Zionist (right up there with the Greg Feltons and Rabbles of this world) it is not so obvious that anything he has advocated has cleared the bar for Criminal Code hate speech. Again, I want to see what the particulars of the charges are. (Now, presumably, these charges were approved by the BC Attorney General, a woman unblessed with a legal education and thus at the mercy of her officials when it comes to this sort of thing.)
Short of actual incitement to violence in the most non-metaphorical sense, I would hope the SCC will narrow the grounds upon which a Criminal Code prosecution may be brought otherwise the usual suspects will simply shift their ground to compliant AGs and the Courts. However, at least in the Courts ideas like evidence, the presumption of innocence and proof beyond reasonable doubt will offer their protections.