Wednesday, May 21, 2008

CHRONICLE HERALD: Bad times for free speech - But axing Section 13 of Rights Act would begin to warm up chilly climate

Bad times for free speech

But axing Section 13 of Rights Act would begin to warm up chilly climate

By MARK MERCER

Canadians heard a long time ago, at least as long ago as 1990, that they are not free to speak their minds as they see fit. 1990 was the year the Supreme Court of Canada ruled constitutional Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Section 13 says that it is "a discriminatory practice" to communicate "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."

It is under s. 13 that a complaint against Maclean’s magazine has been filed with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. It’s indirectly because of s. 13 that provincial and territorial human rights commissions see fit to consider complaints about what people have said or written or drawn – as in the current complaint against The Chronicle-Herald for publishing an editorial cartoon that offended some readers.

Now none of us wants that any group of people is vilified. We don’t want our ears bruised by racist epithets and we don’t want to witness displays of contempt. And yet one doesn’t have to be a free speech absolutist to see what is wrong and dangerous with s. 13. It is addressed to any matter that "is likely to expose" a person to hatred. What you say need not actually expose anyone to hatred. It need not even be intended to expose anyone to hatred.

 

Rest of article at: http://www.thechronicleherald.ca/Letters/1057238.html