Correspondence from the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Thank you for your correspondence concerning the Government’s proposed amendments to strengthen the hate crimes provisions of the Criminal Code. I regret the delay in responding.
As you are aware, on September 30, 2011, Conservative Member of Parliament Mr. Brian Storseth introduced Private Member’s Bill C-304, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act (protecting freedom), into the House of Commons. The Bill proposes to repeal section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which empowers the Canadian Human Rights Commission to deal with complaints regarding the communication of hate messages by telephone or on the Internet.
Our government supports the repeal of section 13 as it has been found to be subjective and unnecessarily vague when it comes to informing Canadians about what can and cannot be said on the Internet. We firmly believe that the Criminal Code is the best vehicle for combating hate propaganda and we remain committed to the promotion and protection of free speech by all Canadians.
To that end, on February 14, 2012, the Government tabled in the House of Commons Bill C-30, the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act. Among other things, the Bill proposes to expand the definition of “identifiable group” for the crimes of inciting hatred in a public place likely to lead to a breach of the peace and the wilful promotion of hatred, which are found in section 319 of the Criminal Code. The criteria of national origin, age, sex, and mental or physical disability would be added to the current definition of “identifiable group” for these two offences. In addition, the criterion of national origin would be added to the definition of “identifiable group” for the offence of advocating or promoting genocide, contained in subsection 318(1) of the Criminal Code.
Thank you again for writing.
The Honourable Rob Nicholson
If this is all they plan to do, some obvious problems:
1) The requirement that the AG must approve hate speech charges would appear to remain, which in practice means that such charges will be almost impossible to lay. There were rumors going about that this requirement might be removed, but apparently no such luck.
2) Any expansion of the criterion can trigger a legal challenge to the criminal code provisions, which might mean section 319 falls and the country's winds up being without any hate speech legislation.
3) The bill containing these new provisions is the infamous C-30, which the government appears to have already given up on.
So, not a very impressive response.