Monday, May 9, 2011

Bill C-51: the Conservative government is in favour of censorship

Here is a good article posted on the Volunteer written by Terrence Watson.


It discusses the shady plans of the new Conservative government.


Can you say police state?





Bill C-51: the Conservative government is in favour of censorship






Bill C-51: the betrayal continued

Among other things, Bill C-51 amends Section 319 of the Criminal Code. That’s the section dealing with “public incitement of hatred.”

319. (1) Every one who, by communicating statements in a public place, incites hatred against any identifiable group where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace if guilty of

(a) an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years; or

(b) an offence punishable on summary conviction.

(2) Every one who, by communicating statements, other than in private conversation, wilfully promotes hatred against and identifiable group is guilty of

(a) an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years; or 

(b) an offence punishable on summary conviction.
(7) In this section, 



includes communicating by telephone, broadcasting or other audible or visible means;


C-51 modifies s. 319 in two ways, neither good. The modifications consist of subtle changes to the definitions of some of the terms used in the two clauses provided above. Specifically:

  1. C-51 expands the definition of “identifiable group” to include “national origin”, which it didn’t include before (question: why make this change? I have an idea…)
  2. Worse, C-51 expands the definition of “communicating” so that it includes simply making available hateful material.

(Text of the bill, legislative summary.)

As it stands, s. 319 of the criminal code prohibits disseminating hateful material by telephone, broadcast, etc. The law identifies specific means of communication, though the prohibition isn’t limited to those means.  Still, the examples given at least suggest an interpretation limiting the scope of the ban to the active communication of hate propaganda.

At the very least, the vagueness in the law and the clues in the provided examples are there for a clever defendant to exploit.

C-51 removes the vagueness. Or rather, it replaces a benign vagueness in the law with an all-encompassing malignant one. The legislation would replace the list of examples given in (7), quoted above, with this:

“communicating” means communicating by any means and includes making available;

This change takes the criminal code hate speech prohibitions beyond “active communication” and into an uncharted, dangerous place. The change is clearly aimed at the Internet, and the case that was probably in the mind of our lawmakers is one in which an individual links to hateful material, but doesn’t reproduce its text on his own website or blog.

Here’s a (potentially NSFW) example: link. In case the link doesn’t work for you, it goes to a Google search for “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the notorious forgery behind a great deal of modern antisemitism.

Did I just knowingly make hate propaganda available  on the Internet? I’ve deliberately avoided going through the search results, but my guess is that they can be put into three groups:

  • The text of the Protocols.
  • Criticism of the historical legitimacy of the Protocols.
  • Lurid anti-Jewish conspiracies from antisemites who use the Protocols as inspiration.

I know some of the links I just made available will fall into the first or third categories. Am I guilty of “willfully promoting hatred”? Is Google?

Suppose someone crafted a search result where the only results were antisemitic links, and then tweeted his Google search along with the comment, “I hate Jews.”  If Bill C-51 passed, would that be illegal?

No doubt, the police would refuse to even investigate such a case, and it’s unlikely a prosecutor would pursue it. But that’s not the point.

The Conservative government: objectively in favour of censorship

The point is that Bill C-51 would prohibit expression that is permissible under the status quo, contract the limits of protected speech, and give professional grievance-mongerers a new weapon to use against basement Nazis and other ideological opponents.

And it is 100% a product of the Conservative Party of Canada.

Why? Why did the Conservatives slip this into their crime bill?

The legislative summary claims the purpose of the bill is to “modernize certain offences.” And therein lies part of the explanation; just like Bill C-36, C-51 expands state power in the guise of modernizing it. To cope with new challenges and new technology, the government needs new powers. Gaps in the law — like permitting someone to link to hateful material without actually reproducing the text — cannot be tolerated.

I can understand why a Liberal or a New Democrat, fearful of neo-Nazis using Twitter, would seek to plug the gap. I cannot understand why a Conservative would act this way. I cannot understand why the Conservatives would facilitate censorship on the Internet.

The worst part is that, as with C-36, there is likely to be little opposition to this measure.

There are good political reasons not to abolish Section 13(1) of the Human Rights Act. Getting rid of Canada’s censorship laws is far more difficult than enacting them in the first place. There will always be those who will claim that supporting freedom of speech is the same as supporting hate speech.

But that is exactly why it is so important not to further entrench censorship. Because once a form of speech is prohibited, it’s likely to stay prohibited.

The Conservatives either do not understand this or, in their rush to “modernize” the law, do not care. Either way, they’re now objectively in favour of censorship.

[The text above is just a portion of the article.  The full article can be read here:]