The current Canadian law concerning anti-hate speech contains two sections. The first section, 319 (2), states that everyone who willfully promotes hatred, other than in private conversation, against any identifiable group (which is defined under 318 (4) as “colour, race, religion, ethnic origin, or sexual orientation”) is entitled to imprisonment or is denied the right to a jury trial. The second section, 319 (3), states defences for (2): no one can be convicted of an offence under 319 (2) if the individual establishes that the statements were true, if they attempted to establish an argument based on a religious opinion, if the statements were for public benefit, or if they intended to point out matters producing feelings of hatred towards an identifiable group in Canada, for the purpose of removal.
The public incitement of hatred law 319 (1) states that everyone who communicates hateful statements against any identifiable group that leads to a breach of the peace is also entitled to imprisonment or is denied the right to a jury trial. This law is different from 319 (2) because the latter is willfully promoting hatred, whereas 319 (1) is simply publicly inciting hatred.
James Keegstra was a high school teacher in Eckville, Alberta whom willfully communicated anti-Semitic statements to his students regarding Jewish people. In 1984 he was charged under 319 (2). However, he applied for an appeal and claimed that said section infringed upon his freedom of expression, as expressed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. His principal argument was that section 2(b) of the Charter was violated, which states, “Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication.” Keegstra also debated that various additional freedoms were violated as well, such as 11(d) “Any person charged with an offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal”, 15(l) “Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national and ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability”, and 27 “This Charter shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians”. Keegstra’s motion was rejected, however the Supreme Court of Canada had concluded that section 319 (2) violates section 2(b) of the Charter, and that Keegstra’s rights were essentially infringed upon.
It is my personal belief that the anti-hate speech law 319 (2) should mostly remain as it stands, however only one aspect needs altering. Private conversations should be included in section 319 (2), as there is still harm executed even if it is not to the public,...