OTTAWA, February 16, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The campaign to scrap Canada’s ‘hate speech’ clause moved one step closer to victory Wednesday night as the House of Commons voted 158-131 to send it to committee.

Of those MPs who voted, the bill was unanimously supported by the majority Conservative government and opposed by all Opposition members, except Liberal Scott Simms (Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor). (See the vote breakdown.)

After consideration by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, Bill C-304 will need to pass a third vote in the House of Commons and then the Senate before becoming law.

The private members bill, introduced by MP Brian Storseth, seeks to ensure greater protection of freedom of expression in Canada by deleting the controversial section 13 of the Human Rights Act – the “hate speech” provision that has been used to silence Christians and conservatives who express politically incorrect opinions.

Ezra Levant, source of the Sun News Network’s The Source, and one of the most prominent of those targeted through section 13, told LifeSiteNews he is “proud of Canada’s Parliament for taking this first step in reclaiming our freedoms.”

“The Canadian Human Rights Act is an Orwellian law that actually undermines our real rights—like freedom of expression and freedom of religion—and promotes counterfeit rights, like the right not to be offended,” he said.

“This is a win for all Canadians across the political spectrum, and so it was disappointing to me that only a single opposition MP voted for it,” he continued. “I believe the Liberal Party needs to rediscover its civil libertarian tradition—the root of the word Liberal is latin for freedom, of course.”

The bill’s chances were greatly improved in November when it earned an endorsement from the majority Conservative government.

But supporters have nevertheless criticized the government for leaving section 13’s repeal to a private members bill.

“It really should have been a priority for any conservative government that values freedom. Because Mr. Storseth’s bill is a private member’s bill, it is not guaranteed to pass,” said Neil Dykstra, a spokesman for Stand Up For Freedom Canada.

Critics of Section 13 have long argued that the clause creates the precise equivalent to a ‘thought crime.’ The provision defines a discriminatory practice as “any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt” if the person or persons affected are “identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.”

In 2008, the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) hired constitutional law expert Professor Richard Moon to examine Section 13 of the act. In his report, Moon’s principal recommendation was that section 13 be repealed. However, the CHRC ignored the report and proposed their own solutions, which were criticized as “superficial.”

Bill C-304’s successful passage would also strike out Section 54 of the act, the penalty clause for those convicted of transgressing Section 13.

Contact info for all members of parliament is available here.

The text of Bill C-304 is available here.

The text of Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act is available here.