OTTAWA, June 8, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A bill to scrap the controversial Section 13 “hate crimes” provision of the Canadian human rights code passed third and final reading in the House of Commons by a vote of 153 to 136 late Wednesday.
Bill C-304, “An Act to Amend the Human Rights Act,” was introduced by Alberta Conservative MP Brian Storseth. It now goes to the Conservative-dominated Senate where it is expected to pass and be given royal assent.
Critics of Section 13 have long argued that the clause created the precise equivalent of a ‘thought crime’ in Canadian law. The provision defined 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 In his report, Moon’s principle recommendation was that section 13 be repealed. However, the CHRC ignored the report and proposed its own solutions.
In 2009, a ruling by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal in the case of Richard Warman and the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) vs. Marc Lemire, found in favour of Lemire, and also stated that section 13 was unconstitutional in that it unreasonably limited the Charter right to freedom of expression.
Lemire, operator of the website FreedomSite.org, was the subject of a complaint brought by serial complainant and former CHRC employee Richard Warman in November 2003. Warman alleged that certain postings to Lemire’s website were likely to incite hatred or contempt against homosexuals and blacks, thus violating section 13.
Following the CHRT ruling, conservative pundit and human rights commission critic Mark Steyn said that the end of the hate speech legislation was near, calling the ruling a “landmark decision.”
“This is the beginning of the end for Section 13 and its provincial equivalents, and a major defeat for Canada’s thought police,” Steyn said. “It’s not just a personal triumph for Marc Lemire, but a critical victory in the campaign by Ezra Levant, Maclean’s, yours truly and others to rid the Canadian state of this hideous affront to justice.”
MacLean’s magazine had been dragged before the Canadian Human Rights Commission in 2006 by the Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC) for publishing an excerpt, headlined “The Future Belongs to Islam,” from Steyn’s bestselling book “America Alone” in which he predicts a coming clash between an increasingly aggressive Islamic minority in Europe and native Europeans.
The CIC complained to the Human Rights Commission of “exposing Canadian Muslims to hatred and Islamophobia.” A representative of the group claimed the complaint was intended to “protect Canadian multiculturalism and tolerance.”
The high-profile Steyn/Maclean’s case became a rallying point for the movement in Canada to reform or to abolish entirely the Canadian human rights commissions. Members of this movement, including Steyn, claimed that the commissions had become arbiters of politically correct thought in Canada and a serious threat to freedom of speech.
The case was eventually dismissed.
During the debate on Bill C-304 on Wednesday, Mr. Storseth said, “Mr. Speaker, tonight every member of the House has the opportunity to vote for freedom.
“For far too long every Canadian’s fundamental right to freedom of expression has been needlessly suppressed by an overzealous bureaucracy armed with section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, a vague and highly subjective law operating under the cloak of ambiguity.
“While section 13 may have been implemented with well-meaning intentions, its implications reach much further, chilling free speech and stifling the growth and development of free expression in our society. It is time to take back our right to freedom of expression as the bedrock upon which all other freedoms are built and repeal section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.”
Storseth added that “Hate speech is a serious crime,” but that it should handled by “real police officers,” with “real lawyers and judges presiding over these cases, not a quasi-judicial body in a backroom doing things in the dark, which nobody ever gets to see. That is not justice.”
Only one Opposition member, Newfoundland and Labrador Liberal MP for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, Scott Simms, voted in support of the bill.