Brian Storseth’s C-304 could be voted on by January

Conservative MP Brian Storseth's private member's bill would remove Section 13's anti-free speech provisions.

Conservative MP Brian Storseth (Westlock-St. Paul) introduced C-304, a private member’s bill which, if passed, would delete sections 13 and 54 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.



Section 13 “empowers the Commission to deal with complaints regarding the communication of hate messages by telephone or on the Internet” that are “likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt by reason of the fact that person or those persons are identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination,” including homosexuals. Section 54 empowers the Canadian Human Rights Commission to impose penalties for contravening Section 13.

In recent years, Section 13 has been used against Christians and conservatives who have criticized homosexuals and Muslim extremists, including Fr. Alphonse de Valk, editor of Catholic Insight, and Mark Steyn, author of America Alone.

Storseth said getting rid of Section 13 is necessary to protect freedom of speech by ensuring there is no “infringement on freedom of expression” as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. C-304, An Act to Amend the Canadian Human Rights Act (protecting freedom), was introduced on Sept. 30.

Storseth says, “freedom of speech is a fundamental right of all Canadians and one that is fully protected by law.” He said the human rights commission industry has led to “debates over the interpretation and application of Section 13 by human rights tribunals have caused a number of free speech controversies arising from nuisance cases that never would have been considered if they’d been handled within the judicial system.”

The National Post endorsed C-304, saying “Section 13 is a particularly pernicious infringement on free speech.” The paper said proceedings before the Canadian Human Rights Commission do not afford the accused the same legal rights as court proceedings and that “it’s provisions make it far too easy for commissioners to find an alleged offender guilty.”

Sun News anchor Ezra Levant has also backed C-304, vowing to promote and publicize Storseth’s bill until it passes.

In early November C-304 received it’s first hour of debate and later that month during Question Period, it was virtually endorsed by the government. Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, who defended the Section 13 provisions in 2008, stood in the House of Commons to urge MPs to vote to repeal the section as it is an affront to free speech.

Nicholson said, “our government believes that section 13 is not an appropriate or effective means for combatting hate propaganda. We believe the Criminal Code is the best vehicle to prosecute these crimes.” His press secretary Julie Mambro later explained, “regarding Section 13, the Attorney General of Canada defended the constitutionality of the provision on the grounds that Parliament had authority to enact the law. By the same token, Parliament has the authority to repeal the law.”

The Catholic Register reported that a vote could come as early as January.