Wednesday, June 18, 2008

CHRC to Investigate the CENSORSHIP Role of Section 13-1 (Press Release and Media Articles)


CHRC to Investigate the Role of Section 13-1  (Press Release and Media Articles)




1: Self-serving press release from the Canadian Human Rights Commission

2: National Post: Human rights body to review internet role

3: Ottawa Citizen:  Rights commission to review Internet hate laws

4: Western Standard: Fed censorship powers to be reviewed





Canadian Human Rights Commission Launches Independent Review On Hate Messaging on the Internet

(Ottawa, June 17, 2008) – The Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) has launched a comprehensive policy review of how best to address hate messages on the Internet. Leading constitutional law expert Professor Richard Moon of the University of Windsor will conduct an independent study as an important part of this review.

Speaking today to the Canadian Association of Statutory Human Rights Agencies (CASHRA), CHRC Chief Commissioner Jennifer Lynch, Q.C. said, "The current debate on how to balance freedom of expression with the need to protect Canadians from hate messages in the Internet age is an important one. We are confident that this review will provide insight into the issues and move the discourse one step further."

Growing public interest and continued advances in technology all point to a need to examine issues surrounding hate on the Internet. The Commission is dedicated to ensuring that the Canadian Human Rights Act remains effective. "Legislation must evolve – when necessary – to respond and reflect changes in society," said Lynch.

Professor Moon is a prominent expert on freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and religion, and the structural aspects of constitutional rights protection. He is the author of the seminal book, "The Constitutional Protection of Freedom of Expression".

He will conduct legal and policy research and analysis and make recommendations on the most appropriate mechanisms for addressing hate messages on the Internet, with specific emphasis on section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act and the role of the CHRC. His work will include a review of existing statutory and regulatory mechanisms, an examination of the mandates of human rights commissions and tribunals, and a consideration of Canada’s international human rights obligations.

The review is to begin immediately and Professor Moon is expected to submit his report to the Commission this fall.


See Announcement by Chief Commissioner, Jennifer Lynch, Q.C.
See Backgrounder

For more information:
Media Relations
(613) 943-9118

Richard J. Moon, Professor of Law

Professor Richard J. Moon is a leading constitutional expert on freedom of religion, freedom of expression and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

A recognized researcher and writer, Professor Moon teaches Law at the University of Windsor. His teachings and writings have informed generations of law students in Canada and the United States. He is the author of The Constitutional Protection of Freedom of Expression, and of three chapters of the leading constitutional law casebook in Canada, Canadian Constitutional Law"

He is a past president of the Canadian Law Society Association and is the former Fellow of the University of Windsor Humanities Research Group.

To view Richard Moon's biography, visit:



Human rights body to review internet role

Joseph Brean,  National Post  Published: Tuesday, June 17, 2008

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE -- Faced with a growing controversy over human rights complaints and freedom of speech, the Canadian Human Rights Commission Tuesday launched a major independent review of how it deals with hate messages on the Internet.

"I'm a free speecher. I'm also a human rightser," said Jennifer Lynch, chief commissioner of the CHRC. "We have a responsibility to lead the debate on how we can keep our policy up to date to effectively regulate hate on the Internet."

Headed by Richard Moon, a law professor at the University of Windsor, the review will involve a re-analysis of Section 13-1 of the 1977 Canadian Human Rights Act, which applies to "telecommunication" of any material "that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt," based on 11 specific grounds such as race, gender or religion.

Recommendations could include changes to the law, formal guidelines for the commission or requests for further guidance from Parliament.

A parallel internal probe will examine the methods used by CHRC staff in investigating complaints under this section, which have controversially included using pseudonyms to access and post material to target Web sites.

Although hate-message cases account for only about 2% of the CHRC's workload, they have emerged as the topic of a divisive national debate, in which freedom of speech is often seen as incompatible with freedom from discrimination.

That debate has focused most notably on hate speech complaints brought against Maclean's magazine in three jurisdictions by a group of Muslim law students. But it had been brewing earlier because of similar complaints against conservative blogger Ezra Levant, who published the Danish Muhammad cartoons, and far-right Internet propagandist Marc Lemire. Mr. Lemire is pursuing a constitutional challenge to section 13-1 as part of the case against him at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

Critics argue that the section's legal test of "likely to expose" is too loose because truth is not a valid defence, and intent - whether malicious, journalistic or even scholarly -- is irrelevant.

In an interview on Tuesdaywith the National Post, her first since the controversy hit the headlines this year, Ms. Lynch said the "tidal bore of interest on both sides of the equation" prompted her to take this "more formal step to lead some cutting-edge thinking."

She was clearly familiar with the criticisms levelled against her commission, and had an answer for each.

She said the CHRC's harshest critics have misunderstood its dual role to decide which cases to refer to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal for adjudication and to promote awareness and lead public discussion of human rights.

"No one would ever call up the chief justice of the Federal Court and say, ‘Hey, are you ever overdoing it! What are you taking this case for?' " she said.

She compared the commission's work on complaints to that of a court registrar, meaning it has neither the ability nor the duty to make legal findings of fact.

"The challenge is identifying Canadian jurisdiction over hate on the Internet and who put it there," she said.

She denied that her investigators have ever posted bigoted comments on the Internet, or engaged in entrapment, as has been frequently alleged.

"We have not done that and I would not tolerate it," she said.

But she acknowledged that many of the CHRC's investigatory strategies were developed before people realized the full impact of the Internet revolution and how it would affect human rights law.

She said the commission is doing "a superlative job" of weeding out the frivolous or vexatious complaints, as evidenced by the fact that not a single hate message complaint referred by the commission to the tribunal has been overturned on judicial review.

She has "no discomfort level" with the prominence of former CHRC employee Richard Warman, who has brought more than a dozen complaints under section 13-1, including Mr. Lemire's, and boasts a 100% success rate.

"I have pride and respect for the work that's done by commission members," she said, and she expects that it always "adheres to the principles of natural justice."

Prof. Moon's study will be the first major analysis of section 13-1 since the Supreme Court examined it in 1990, in the case of neo-Nazi phone-line operator John Ross Taylor. The court determined, by a vote of 4-3, that the section placed a "reasonable limit" on the Charter right to freedom of expression.

At the time, the section only applied to telephone communications, but it was expanded to include the Internet as part of the security response to 9/11. In the process, and because of the rapid expansion of the Internet, the scope of section 13-1 was drastically widened to include everything from individual bloggers to mainstream media.

"I don't think that's what was intended, but now that most media have [Web sites], suddenly they do fall within the scope of it," Prof. Moon said yesterday.

Prof. Moon, whose expertise is in constitutional law as it relates to freedom of speech and religion, said his mandate is to "think broadly" about whether section 13-1 is necessary and whether it should be adjusted.

He said the scope of his review is necessarily limited by the tight deadline. His mandate is to provide a detailed plan by July 4, and a final report by October 17.

National Post




Rights commission to review Internet hate laws


Don Butler

Canwest News Service



Tuesday, June 17, 2008


OTTAWA - Amid mounting public and political controversy, the Canadian Human Rights Commission has launched an independent review of the way it deals with hate speech on the Internet.

Chief Commissioner Jennifer Lynch announced Tuesday she has asked Richard Moon, a leading constitutional expert at the University of Windsor, to conduct the study. His report, expected this October, will help shape the commission's position on whether Internet hate laws should be changed, she said.

Last December, the Canadian Islamic Congress and a group of Muslim law students used Internet hate sections of federal and provincial human rights acts to file a series of complaints against Maclean's magazine for articles they said fostered hatred against Muslims.

British Columbia's Human Rights Tribunal completed a five-day hearing into one of the complaints earlier this month, but has not yet released a ruling.

Ontario's Human Rights Commission dismissed the complaint, saying it lacked jurisdiction over printed material, while the federal Human Rights Commission is still investigating.

The Maclean's complaints have sparked a furor over whether laws on Internet hatred unduly restrict freedom of expression.

Earlier this year, Liberal MP Keith Martin introduced a private member's bill calling for the repeal of Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. The section makes it illegal to use the Internet or telephone to disseminate messages likely to expose identifiable groups or individuals to hatred or contempt.

Martin followed that up last month with a motion in the House of Commons calling on the government to hold public hearings on the matter.

Around the same time, Conservative MP Rick Dykstra asked the Commons justice committee to examine the human rights commission's mandate and how it interprets Section 13.

Lynch played down the controversy stirred up by the Maclean's complaints or the ensuing parliamentary manoeuvres as triggers for the review.

"We've been working on this for a long time internally," she said, adding she identified it as an issue last summer, soon after taking over as chief commissioner.

That said, she conceded that the "velocity" of the public debate "took all of us by surprise. It's clear the public want to have the debate. Our job really is to animate and lead on the debate."

Lynch said she isn't "the least bit concerned" that the current law blurs the lines between hate speech and speech that is merely offensive.

So far, she pointed out, there have been no rulings that water down free expression.

Like any court, her staff simply receive and process complaints. "A registrar of a court doesn't take a statement of claim, read it over and say, 'Go away - we won't give you a file number.' "

It's "absolutely possible" that the review will lead to changes to the current law, Lynch said.

When Section 13, which originally dealt only with telephone hate messages, was amended in 2001 to include the Internet, print media were just starting to make widespread use of the new technology, she noted.

"I don't think it was ever contemplated at that time that media would start posting text on the Internet such that it would then come under our jurisdiction. As the Internet matures, we need to have a look at this."

It's conceivable that legislative changes may not be necessary, Lynch said.

The Human Rights Act allows the commission to draft binding guidelines - similar to statutory regulations - that can set out the application of the act.

"We have learned how to work within our legislative mandate and modernize," she said.

"If it's possible to do so, it's more practical not to have legislative amendments, because that takes a long time to do."

Moon is one of Canada's leading experts free speech law, and is the author of a seminal work, The Constitutional Protection of Freedom of Expression.

As part of his review, he will look at Section 13 and consider the mandates of human rights commissions and tribunals, along with other government institutions involved in addressing hate messages on the Internet.

He'll also consider whether other government or non-government organizations could play a role.

In a brief interview Tuesday, Moon said the public debate over the Maclean's complaints is evidence that such a review is needed.

"I don't think anybody could pretend that there isn't a serious issue to be considered here."

At this point, he said, he is "reading comprehensively" and will meet privately with people on all sides of the issue to hear their perspectives.

He doesn't plan to accept written briefs or hold public hearings.

© Ottawa Citizen 2008


Fed censorship powers to be reviewed

Well, well, well! MP Keith Martin's motion to review the censorious Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act may get nowhere, and the Commons' justice committee's review of the section may be bogged down forever, but it still looks like there's light at the end of the tunnel.

That's because the Canadian Human Rights Commission announced today that it has launched "a comprehensive policy review of how best to address hate messages on the Internet. Leading constitutional law expert Professor Richard Moon of the University of Windsor will conduct an independent study as an important part of this review."

Moon is to begin work immediately and report back by the fall. And lest you think a "no action needed" result has been predetermined, consider this statement from Chief Commissioner Jennifer Lynch: "Legislation must evolve - when necessary - to respond and reflect changes in society."

One big reason for optimism is the fact Moon "is a prominent expert on freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and religion, and the structural aspects of constitutional rights protection. He is the author of the seminal book, 'The Constitutional Protection of Freedom of Expression'."

See the CHRC's entire release here.

Posted by Terry O'Neill on June 17, 2008 in Canadian Politics | Permalink