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The Canadian Human Rights Act: Controversial Or Not?

1747 words - 7 pages

Thanks to Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) and passionate advocates of unsanctioned freedom of speech, Internet blogger Marc Lemire now stands at the apex of a remarkably heated controversy in human rights law. Anti-Racist Canada (2012) recalled that five months after the launch of his Freedom-Site on the Internet in January 1996, Lemire used his website to promote his CD-ROM, via a Stormfront mailing list, that was, “filled to the brim with Pro-White files, including sound files, movies, pictures, and text files.” This CD-ROM caught the attention of Richard Warman, a human rights lawyer and former employee of the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC). He then wasted no time in accusing Lemire of a violation of Section 13 of the CHRA. As it stands today, Section 13 explicitly states that it is discriminatory to communicate via the phone or the Internet any material “that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt.” This effectively placed the monitoring of communication over these electronic media under the jurisdiction of the CHRC. At this point, many Canadians felt that this infringed unreasonably upon their fundamental freedom of speech. They have continued to allege that this law is unconstitutional and a blatant form of censorship. Steyn (2009) reported that Judge Hadjis of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, who tried Lemire’s case, proceeded to dismiss the charge as he too shared the public’s view. The CHRC appealed the decision made by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal in Warman v. Lemire to the Federal Court of Canada, a ruling from which may or may not establish a precedent that will effectively negate Section 13. However, the assertion, made by members of the public and Judge Hadjis, which states that Section 13 is unconstitutional is in fact, incorrect. Section 13 was created to mitigate the damage caused by the spread of hate messages over the Internet and the telephone, and it has done so in the history of its application by placing a justifiable limit on freedom of speech. Moreover, Section 13 does not violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, nor does it infringe upon international law for that matter. Given the fact that Section 13 is committed through application and legislation alike to protecting the rights of the public and preventing discrimination, Section 13 should remain in existence.
Juriansz (2011) recalled that the Special Committee on Hate Propaganda in Canada identified, in 1966, that victims of hate speech might suffer serious psychological distress. According to Section 2 of the CHRA, the individual facing the discrimination might not feel comfortable to “make for himself or herself the life that he or she wishes or is able to have.” On a more serious note, Gusella (2005) recounted that Chief Justice Dickson wrote in the Taylor Decision, from Section 13’s first case, R. v. Taylor, that, “the result [of allowing the spread of hate messages] may be an increase in...

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