CHRC to Investigate the Role of Section 13-1 (Press Release and
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
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.
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
The review is to begin immediately and Professor
For more information:
Professor Richard J.
A recognized researcher and writer, Professor
He is a past president of the Canadian Law Society Association and is the former Fellow of the
To view Richard
Human rights body to review internet role
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
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
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,
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
"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."
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.
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.
Rights commission to review Internet hate laws
Canwest News Service
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Chief Commissioner Jennifer Lynch announced Tuesday she has asked Richard
Last December, the Canadian Islamic Congress and a group of
Earlier this year, Liberal
Around the same time, Conservative
Lynch played down the controversy stirred up by the
"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."
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,
"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!
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
One big reason for optimism is the fact
See the CHRC's entire release here.
Posted by Terry O'Neill on June 17, 2008 in Canadian Politics | Permalink