This is the bill that repeals the dreaded section 13 of the human rights act. That’s the soon-to-be former law that made it an offence to post something online that was “likely to expose” an identifiable group to hatred or contempt.
First off, hatred and contempt are feelings and hard to legislate against, therefore the law was always silly. Secondly, “likely to expose?” That meant you didn’t even have to actually expose anyone to these feelings through your posting, just that whatever you said, wrote or sang in an Internet posting could theoretically expose a protected group to hatred or contempt.
And, as we saw time and again through the prosecutions undertaken by the federal human rights apparatus, there didn’t even need to be a complaint from anyone in a protected group to see you prosecuted.
Section 13 of the human rights act was an affront to free speech, it was an affront to due process, it was an affront to logic and the rule of law.
It will soon be gone.
Lilley makes another excellent point near the end of this column: bloggers made this happen. That is, grassroots activists made this an issue and exposed the silly but dangerous tendencies of the human rights commission industry. Journalist bloggers like Ezra Levant and Mark Steyn but also Five Feet of Fury, Small Dead Animals, Blazing Cat Fur, Jay Currie, Free Dominion, Free Mark Steyn/Free Canuckistan, and many, many others. It is a testament to what someone — or more precisely, some people — can do with a good, well-read blog.
My own preference would be to close down the whole human rights commission industry, but as I argued five years ago in The Interim, the HRCs desperately needed to be curbed or closed. I’ll take curbed. For now.
Also, the fight is not over. C-304 only prunes the hate speech provisions of federal human rights law — and actually even then it removes it from the kangaroo court of the Canadian Human Rights Commission and Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and forces police to deal with these issues and the courts to mete out punishments, but at least defendants will have the ability to defend themselves. Provincial hate speech strictures need to be repealed.
I remind you, as Lilley pointed out, that so-called hate speech need not actually be hateful and that Section 13 was used to punished politically incorrect speech. So while there is still much work to be done, this is a good story. The liberty of Canadians has expanded.