http://blogs.canada.com/2012/06/06/harp ... ghts-code/
Conservative government votes to repeal sections on hate speech from human rights code
By Jason Fekete
OTTAWA — The Conservative government voted late Wednesday to repeal controversial sections of the Canadian Human Rights Act banning hate speech over the telephone or Internet.
In a vote of 153 to 136, the majority Harper government supported a private member’s bill from Alberta Conservative MP Brian Storseth that would scrap Section 13 of the human rights code, which deals with complaints regarding “the communication of hate messages by telephone or on the Internet.”
Storseth argues the current human rights code fails to protect freedom of speech, which is guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and believes Canadians are better off if the government repeals sections 13 and 54 — the latter section dealing with associated penalties.
“At every stage, the Conservative caucus has voted for it,” Storseth, a backbencher, said Wednesday in an interview before the vote on third and final reading in the House of Commons.
“I’m looking forward to continuing to have Conservative caucus support.”
Senior cabinet ministers supported the bill during the free vote and the results generated loud applause from Conservative MPs. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is overseas and wasn’t present for the vote. Most opposition politicians voted against the bill, although Newfoundland and Labrador Liberal MP Scott Simms supported it.
Storseth said the current human rights code allows too many frivolous cases to proceed against citizens, when the Criminal Code already covers hate speech that could generate harm against an individual or group.
Acts of hate speech are serious crimes that should be investigated by police officers, not civil servants, he said, and the cases should be handled by “real judges and real lawyers,” instead of a quasi-judicial body like the human rights commission.
Storseth said he has also been speaking with colleagues in the Conservative-dominated Senate in hopes of it quickly receiving royal assent. The bill contains a one-year implementation period.
The Canadian Human Rights Commission says it received 1,914 complaints last year, but has received only three hate speech complaints since 2009. Two of those three complaints were dismissed and one is currently being examined by the quasi-judicial body.
Canadian police departments reported 1,401 hate crimes in 2010, or 4.1 hate crimes per 100,000 population, according to recently released data from Statistics Canada.
New Democrat public safety critic Randall Garrison said Wednesday that, due to the large number of hate crimes, the human rights commission needs to have the power to combat the issue online and force individuals and groups to remove websites containing hateful speech.
Removing the sections from the human rights code will effectively strip the commission of its power to educate Canadians and shut down inappropriate websites, he said.
“We do have a serious problem,” Garrison said. “If you take away the power to take (websites) down, it’s not clear they have any mandate to even to talk to people about it and educate them about it.”
Garrison said the changes to the human rights code are another example of a controversial policy decision the government fully supported but tried to disguise as a private member’s bill.
Conservative party members voted a few years ago at their annual convention in favour of a resolution to eliminate the human rights commission’s authority to “regulate, receive, investigate or adjudicate complaints” dealing with hate speech on the Internet.
The prime minister has previously said that “everyone has some concerns” about the issue and that it’s a delicate balancing act to protect free speech without inciting hatred.