Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Conservatives "Talking Points" on Section 13.




No Political Will on Free Speech

It appears the Harper government doesn't have the political stomach right now to engage in any kind of major defense of free speech rights in Canada.  NoApologies.ca has obtained a copy of a document circulated to all Conservative MP's from Justice Minister Rob Nicholson's office late last week. 
The document is entitled "Talking points re:  CHRA & CHRC", and it basically instructs MP's to keep a very low profile on any discussion surrounding Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.  You can see a copy of the confidential paper here.  Liberal MP Keith Martin served notice earlier this month of a motion he wants to bring before Parliament to scrap Section 13(1) of the Act.  This is the section that has been widely criticised for suppressing free speech rights.  Critics say the section is being used by Muslim and gay rights activists to silence anyone who disagrees with them.  The document tells MP's repeatedly to stress the point that the Harper government "is committed to the protection and promotion of human rights", and that the Canadian Human Rights Commission is an "independent agency" that administers the Human Rights Act "without interference from the government."








Talking points re:  CHRA & CHRC




Two human rights cases involving journalists have recently received wide media attention.  Media have focused on section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA), which prohibits hate messaging, and its possible effects on freedom of expression. 


Some groups are urging the government to repeal or amend s. 13 of the CHRA.  Liberal MP Keith Martin tabled a private member’s motion on January 30th that s. 13 of the CHRA be deleted from the Act.


Proposed Talking Points:


Regarding Amending the Human Rights / reforming of the Commission and Tribunal process / section 13 (hate messages):


·        The Government of Canada is committed to the protection and promotion of human rights.

·        Canada’s record on human rights is second to none. It is a record for which all Canadians can be proud.

·        Our government is currently taking steps to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act.  Bill C-21 (being considered by the Standing Committee) repeals section 67 of the CHRA.  Repealing section 67 is a priority for the government at this time and we are working hard to see this bill pass.

·        The Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal are independent agencies that administer the Canadian Human Rights Act, according to procedures specified by the law, without interference from the government.

·        The Department of Justice continues to monitor the Commission and Tribunal to ensure that our human rights system remains effective.


Section 13 background


Enacted in 1977, the original purpose of s.13 was to deal with “telephone hate lines”.  The legislation was extended in 2001 to cover hate messaging on the Internet (s. 13(2)).


Section 13 provides:

13. (1) It is a discriminatory practice for a person or a group of persons acting in concert to communicate telephonically or to cause to be so communicated, repeatedly, in whole or in part by means of the facilities of a telecommunication undertaking within the legislative authority of Parliament, any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt by reason of the fact that that person or those persons are identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.


Regarding MP Keith Martin’s (Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca) Private Member’s Motion M-446: “That, in the opinion of the House, subsection 13(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act should be deleted from the Act.”

·        This Government values the contributions of all members of Parliament. Motion M-446 was just recently tabled and will not be up for debate in the near future.

·        I can assure you that when this Bill comes before the house for debate, I will follow it closely and will arrive at a position at that time.


If asked about the Steyn / Levant cases:


·        It is not appropriate for me to comment on particular matters that might be before the Canadian Human Rights Commission or the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

·        The Government of Canada is committed to the protection and promotion of human rights.



If asked about the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) and its process:


  • Refer letter writer to the CHRC’s website which has very detailed information pertaining to its mandate, discrimination and harassment, dispute resolution and much more:  http://www.chrc-ccdp.ca/about/default-en.asp


  • Refer to our department’s description of the CHRC: 


    • " The Canadian Human Rights Commission, an independent body that operates at arm’s length from the Government of Canada, administers the Canadian Human Rights Act and reports to Parliament independently. The Commission investigates and tries to settle complaints of discrimination in employment and in the provision of services within federal jurisdiction. The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada is obliged to respect the Commission’s independence without interfering in its normal course of operations."


Regarding Canadian Human Rights and First Nations – Repeal Section 67 of CHRA:


·        The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, introduced Bill C-21 in November, which proposes to repeal Section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.


·        Repeal of Section was one of the recommendations made in the La Forest Report.


·        The Repeal of Section 67 would ensure that the Canadian Human Rights Act and its anti-discrimination protections apply fully to First Nations communities.


·        My Canada includes First Nations.

Background on C-21

·        C-21 will repeal S. 67 of the CHRA.

·        S. 67 provides:

67. Nothing in this Act affects any provision of the Indian Act or any provision made under or pursuant to that Act

·        Section 67 of the CHRA has prevented First Nations people from receiving the same legal protection against discrimination that is afforded to all other Canadians.

·        Section 67 was originally intended to be a temporary measure that would allow the government to consult with First Nations. Thirty years later it is still in place, and continues to prevent First Nations people governed by the Indian Act from receiving the same human rights protection that is afforded to all other Canadians.