Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Section 13 a "vague prohibition is all the more chilling as it is enforced by professional human rights experts" - Shanoff

Interesting article mentioning the censorship provision - Section 13 of the Canadian ”Human Rights” Act.

 

Section 13: “This vague prohibition is all the more chilling as it is enforced by professional human rights experts rather than judges, procedural safeguards are few and there is no defence of either truth or reasonably held opinion.”

 

 

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Let real judges decide hate cases: Shanoff

Our top court has shown us once again why we should remove group hate speech laws from the so-called human rights experts.

More importantly, the fact someone “feels humiliated, sad or frustrated is not a sufficient basis for an action in defamation.”

Having recognized freedom of expression trumps groups from seeking financial compensation for feelings of humiliation, isn’t it time to address the human rights code counterpart to group defamation lawsuits?

I’m referring to the often criticized section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act and its provincial counterparts which prohibit various forms of communications that are “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.”

This vague prohibition is all the more chilling as it is enforced by professional human rights experts rather than judges, procedural safeguards are few and there is no defence of either truth or reasonably held opinion.

Several cases appealing human rights tribunal decisions in hate speech cases are winding their way through the courts, but for now the proper application of the law is in a state of uncertainty leading to practical restraints on freedom of expression.

Our elected officials have the power to reform these overly broad hate speech laws but there doesn’t seem to be any political will to do so, leaving the heavy lifting ultimately to the Supreme Court of Canada.

And let’s not forget that, even as a Pakistani governor was murdered in January after speaking out against his country’s blasphemy laws, our very own criminal laws make it an offence, punishable by up to two years in prison, to publish a blasphemous libel. Never mind that the last blasphemy prosecution took place about 75 years ago, the fact this outdated law remains on our books is an insult and there’s no guarantee a future charge is impossible.

Inciting hatred and advocating or promoting violence against identifiable groups should be and are criminal offences. Those charged are tried by judges and have the full protection of the criminal law with its heavy burden of proof, but in all other “group” cases freedom of expression should prevail.

[SEE FULL ARTICLE AT: http://www.torontosun.com/comment/columnists/alan_shanoff/2011/02/25/17412331.html]