Liberal MP Irwin Cotler introduced a private member’s bill this week that would restore provisions against hate speech to the Canadian Human Rights Act.
He wants to partially undo a Conservative bill that repealed the hate speech provisions in Section 13 of the act that took effect in 2013—something he described in announcing his bill as “throwing out the baby with the proverbial bathwater.”
During debates in 2012 about repealing those provisions, Cotler argued that a better move would be to refine rather than eliminate the provisions.
His new bill aims to do that with measures to guard against frivolous suits or abuse of process and requires the consent of the Attorney General for a complaint to go forward. The bill would also allow for the awarding of costs while also expressly protecting freedom of expression.
“Freedom of expression is the lifeblood of democracy,” said Cotler, who was minister of justice under Paul Martin.
“However, hate speech is not simply a matter of offending sensibilities or being politically incorrect. It causes real and tangible harm, can assault the very values underlying free speech, can breach our international commitments, and can assault the principle of equality.”