Canada’s hate speech law a serious threat to freedom of expression

Chilling Free Speech in the Great White North

Terry Heinrichs
American Thinker

Americans aware of journalists Ezra Levantand Mark Steyn are likely also aware that these two were hauled before Canadian “Human Rights Commissions” for supposed speech-crimes.  Levant was pursued because he published the Mohammed cartoons, and Steyn, for, well, casting some Muslims in a bad light.  Both men had their cases dropped, probably because they were articulate, famous, and had relatively deep pockets.  Others who have been charged have not been so lucky.  While such commissions stand as a serious threat to an open public discourse, they are not the only menace “controversial” speech faces in Canada.

Speech in the U.S. is subject to many types of restrictions, but there is no law that criminalizes “hate speech” as such.  Canada has such a law.  It punishes citizens for up to two years in the slammer for “communicating statements, other than in private conversation” that “willfully promote hatred against an identifiable group.”  This law, passed in 1970, has not been widely used.  It has been deployed about 15 times since 1993, all but twice against impecunious white Canadians.

However, the Canadian government is currently considering a bill which would amend the hate speech section of the Criminal Code in ways that expand the reach of the Act and give the government greater power over the content of what Canadians may say…

…Because the proposal targets “hatred,” a vague and subjective concept at best, Canada’s hate speech law is by that fact alone a serious threat to freedom of expression.  In Canada, saying something remotely hostile to the interests or self-image of an “identifiable group” is already imprudent; to broaden the law’s reach, as the proposed amendments surely will, promises to freeze such discussion altogether.

Read the complete article at American Thinker.

CAJ note: Canada has produced many, many fine bloggers, some of whom we carry in our RSS feed and in our links. This law will further limit their ability to offer opinions, insights, even links to other blogs if someone, anyone, deems their posts to be offensive. One of our favorite bloggers, Blazing Cat Fur, was targeted under this law last year simply for linking to an article deemed “offensive.” Readers may wish to revisit this article  “In Canada, the criminalization of free speech” from November 2010.

American Thinker commenter jmc wrote: “…We Americans should take a moment — in a spirit of thankfulness — to reflect on the wisdom of our Founders that moved them to codify a “Freedom of Speech” clause in our basic legal structure.”


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